Cars traveling between the Suncoast Parkway and Land O’ Lakes Boulevard will find a wider road in their future.
Florida’s $8.8 billion transportation budget offered by Gov. Rick Scott includes an $18.2 million carve-out for State Road 54 that will allow the road to expand from its existing four lanes to six.
That will bring the four-mile stretch of State Road 54 in line with the rest of the route west of the Suncoast Parkway, which connects U.S. 19 in New Port Richey to U.S. 301 in Zephyrhills.
Of the nearly $280 million in transportation improvements earmarked for West Central Florida, just a little more than $79 million directly affect Pasco County. The state also plans to add the Sugarwood stretch of Veterans Expressway to that road’s overall reconstruction project, adding lanes and removing tollbooths between the Sugarwood toll plaza north of Gunn Highway and Van Dyke Road.
“The stretch of Veterans between Sugarwood and Van Dyke was always planned as part of the original widening,” said Christa Deason, public information officer for Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise. “The start time was just staggered so that the entire Veterans wasn’t under construction at one time.”
The expansion of the road there will link it up with a $386 million project already taking place south as part of the road that connects Tampa’s busy Westshore business district with Pasco County. Just like the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, tollbooths will be replaced with all-electronic tolling.
The State Road 54 expansion won’t affect any plans to build an elevated express road, which was proposed last year by a private developer. Such a project would utilize existing rights of way already secured by the Florida Department of Transportation. But even if an agreement was struck soon, construction of such a road is still years off.
Hernando County will receive one-third of the money earmarked for the region, however, claiming $110.2 million. That will expand Interstate 75, providing what officials describe as “interregional connectivity” between the Tampa Bay region and the Georgia state line.
While the nearly $280 million planned for road projects in the region is more than rural parts, both the Miami and Orlando areas will split $1.1 billion, mainly for expansion of Interstate 95 on the eastern side of the state.
Road projects in the area won’t end anytime soon. In addition to current projects and those planned to start in the near future, the FDOT has another $262 million on the drawing board for Pasco County alone.
That work overall includes ongoing I-75 expansion north of State Road 54, the four-laning of State Road 52 west of Interstate 75, and completing the four-lane work of State Road 54 east of Wesley Chapel leading into Zephyrhills.
Other projects, like the $39 million expansion of State Road 56 from Meadow Point Boulevard to U.S. 301 won’t be addressed until 2017 at the earliest.
Published Feb. 12, 2014