Motorists stuck in long lines of traffic at the Interstate 75 and State Road 56 interchange could get relief sooner rather than later.
It will come in the form of a new interchange known as a diverging diamond – a design gaining popularity nationally as a solution to traffic jams at major crossroads.
The Florida Department of Transportation is moving the approximately $18.5 million road project up by two years. With funding in place, construction is set to begin sometime in fiscal year 2018, which runs from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018.
Previously, the diverging diamond got priority status on the FDOT’s five-year work plan, but had a fiscal year 2020 start date.
“I am grinning ear to ear. I am so excited that the diverging diamond is moving up to 2018,” said Pasco County Chairman Mike Moore. “This is going to be one of the most innovative methods of relieving traffic. It’s going to be so beneficial, not just for that area, but for the entire region.”
Moore and other county commissioners got a presentation on the diverging diamond and other proposed road projects during a Dec. 6 meeting of the Metropolitan Planning Organization in Dade City.
The state transportation department’s five-year work plan of joint state and county road projects is updated annually with local input.
The I-75 interchange is a gateway in and out of major commercial developments on State Road 56, either already open for business – Tampa Premium Outlets – or under construction – Cypress Creek Town Center.
Longhorn Steakhouse and BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse are among the newest restaurants to open. Others include Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Chick-fil-A and Culver’s. More eateries are on the way.
Construction will soon be completed west of the interchange on a 150,000-square-foot sports complex and ice rink, known as Florida Hospital Center Ice.
Vehicles stack up daily at the interchange and bring traffic to a crawl, as motorists seek to go shopping, run errands, get to work or head home.
Details are pending on how traffic will be routed through the busy intersection during construction.
But, Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said, “We’ll take the pain for the progress.”
Pasco County could become the second municipality in the state to have a diverging diamond. Sarasota is the first, with a diverging diamond interchange currently under construction at I-75 and University Parkway. It is expected to open in 2017.
The City of Jacksonville is considering a diverging diamond on Interstate 95.
In the diverging diamond interchange, multiple lanes of traffic from opposite directions crisscross from one side of the roadway to the other, and then switch back, guided by road signs, marked lanes and traffic signals.
Supporters of the design say it eases congestion, prevents wrong-way entry onto ramps and reduces crashes. The interchange also accommodates pedestrian crossings and bicycle lanes.
Other projects included in the five-year work plan are:
- County Road 54 (Wesley Chapel Boulevard) from north of State Road 54 and State Road 56 to Progress Parkway; right-of-way to be purchased in 2018.
- State Road 52 realignment from Uradco Place to west of Fort King Road; right-of-way to be purchased in 2018; construction in 2019.
- S. 301 from State Road 56 (proposed) to State Road 39 (Paul Buchman Highway); preliminary engineering in 2018; right-of-way to be purchased in 2021, 2022.
For complete list of proposed projects and their descriptions visit D7wpph.com.
Comments on projects should be submitted by Dec. 27, either online or mailed to: Ed McKinney, Florida Department of Transportation, 11201 N. McKinley Drive, MS 7-500, Tampa, Florida, 33612.
Published December 21, 2016