It’s no secret that dealing with traffic congestion is a way of life for Pasco County residents.
Whether they’re commuting to work, taking the kids to school, going grocery shopping, heading to a doctor’s appointment or taking care of myriad daily needs, there’s good chance motorists will get stuck in traffic and have to wait for traffic lights to cycle at intersections.
Getting anywhere can be a hassle at peak traffic hours — regardless of the direction drivers are going.
The good news is that 2019 is likely to go down as a banner year with respect to the number of projects aimed at improving traffic flow.
Here’s a look at what is underway, planned for construction, or under study for possible improvements, based on presentations by Florida Department of Transportation officials, transportation department fact sheets and previous reporting by The Laker/Lutz News.
The Diverging Diamond
One massive project, set to get underway this month, is called the Diverging Diamond Interchange.
It aims to reduce congestion at the Interstate 75-State Road 56 interchange, through a reconfiguration of the intersection, in an area between County Road 54 and Cypress Ridge Boulevard.
The new design is expected to improve traffic flow, thus reducing travel time for motorists.
The estimated construction cost is $33 million, and the project is expected to take three years to complete.
Extension of State Road 56
Another significant project involves the extension of State Road 56, beginning at Meadow Pointe Boulevard in Wesley Chapel and ending at U.S. 301 in Zephyrhills.
Work on this 6-mile extension began in 2017. It has an estimated construction cost of $59.1 million.
Initially expected to be completed in the fall, the road could open as early as this spring, David Gwynn, secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation District 7, said during the Discover Dade City symposium in November.
The project includes a four-lane road, with a 10-foot multi-use trail on the south side of the road and a 5-foot sidewalk on the north side. There will be 7-foot bicycle lanes on the shoulders, in each direction.
New signalized intersections also are being built on Morris Bridge Road, where the new State Road 56 crosses it, and on U.S. 301, where the new State Road 56 ties into it.
Also, the City of Zephyrhills requested a study to evaluate extending State Road 56 from U.S. 301 to State Road 39 with a connection to U.S. 98.
And, another study is looking into realigning U.S. 98, where U.S. 301 intersects with Clinton Avenue.
The Pasco Metropolitan Planning Organization also has requested a study to evaluate the potential for the realignment of U.S. 98 at the U.S. 301, in the area of Clinton Avenue (new State Road 52).
U.S. 41 and State Road 54
While the need for a solution to daily traffic jams at U.S. 41 and State Road 54 is widely known, it is not yet clear how the issue will be addressed. Here are alternatives that have been identified, according to a state transportation department document:
- Elevated express lanes at major intersections; express lanes on the ground for the remainder; and bus services in express lanes.
- Parallel flow intersection.
- Elevated lanes at major intersections; bus or rail in separate lanes, combined with a continuous flow intersection.
- No Build: Maintaining six lanes on the ground and current transit services.
State Road 52 improvements
Projects are in various stages along the State Road 52 corridor. Here’s a synopsis:
- Suncoast Parkway to east of U.S. 41: This project will widen a 3.8-mile stretch from two lanes to six lanes, with a 12-foot multi-use trail to be built on the north side of State Road 52. The project also includes a 1-mile widening of U.S. 41, approaching the intersection with State Road 52. Construction is expected to begin in 2019.
- East of U.S. 41 to County Road 581 (Bellamy Brothers Boulevard): Calls for widening the two-lane road to a four-lane divided road. The 8.5-mile improvement also includes a 12-foot multi-use trail on the north side of the road. The project is under design, but there is no construction funding at this time.
- County Road 581 (Bellamy Brothers Boulevard) to Old Pasco Road: Widening the two-lane road to a four-lane road, with a median. The 1.5-mile project has an estimated cost of $13.4 million and is scheduled to be completed this spring.
- State Road 52 widening and new alignment, from Uradco Place to west of Fort King Road.
Between Uradco Place and Bayou Branch Canal, the existing road will be widened to a four-lane divided highway.
East of Bayou Branch Canal, the new alignment will be a four-lane, divided State Road 52, built south of the existing State Road 52, tying into Clinton Avenue.
Clinton Avenue, between County Road 579 and Fort King Road, will be a widened to a four-lane divided road.
Clinton Avenue, between Pasadena Avenue and U.S. 301, will be designated County Road 52, after the construction of the new State Road 52 is complete.
Construction is expected to begin in late 2019.
Interstate 75 interchange at Overpass Road
Pasco County is building a future interchange at I-75 and Pasco Road. The project is scheduled for letting in 2020.
U.S. 301/U.S. 98
Project limits: Pond Avenue to north of Long Avenue/Pioneer Museum Road in Dade City
is in design. Construction is expected to begin in 2019.
Wesley Chapel Intermodal Center Study
This study, expected to be completed in late summer, will identify the needs and location of an intermodal center that will serve as a hub for local and regional transit. It includes the analysis of facility needs, location, cost, funding, connectivity and conceptual design.
Proposed U.S. 301 widening
Another project calls for widening U.S. 301, from a four-lane road to six lanes, from County Road 54/Eiland Boulevard to north of Kossik Road, in Zephyrhills. That construction is not yet funded.
Brian Fernandes contributed to this report.
Published January 9, 2019