Construction crews could be turning dirt within months on a new interchange at Interstate 75 and Overpass Road.
A contractor is expected to be selected by August, and completion is expected about 2 ½ years after construction begins.
The junction frequently is identified as a “gateway” into Pasco County, and a potential catalyst for new development in a largely rural area already experiencing a burst of growth.
“It has a regional impact for Pasco,” said Bill Cronin, president and chief executive officer of the Pasco Economic Development Council. “Another exit opens into the county where we have potential for residential and commercial growth. That is another big gateway for Pasco County from the north but from the east, too.”
On a more local scale, the new interchange is expected to ease traffic congestion, bring more connectivity to northeast Pasco cities, and give the county another evacuation route for hurricanes and other emergencies.
“The benefit to the county is just tremendous,” said Margaret Smith, Pasco’s director of engineering services. “We’re giving residential and commercial users a whole other entrance. It takes the volume of traffic off the two busiest interchanges.”
Situated about halfway between I-75 interchanges with County Road 54 and State Road 52, traffic engineers estimate a reduction of about 13,000 vehicles per day at each interchange.
It also opens up an east/west route that aids current development in the area, including the futuristic Connected City and its Crystal Lagoon, as well as the Villages of Pasadena Hills.
Once the contractor is selected, final design details will be completed. Conceptually, though, the interchange is expected to be a modified diamond exchange with a flyover.
Pasco County is paying for the project, except for $15 million provided by the Florida Legislature. The final price tag has not yet been determined.
The Florida Department of Transportation is partnering as managers of the project — which includes vetting the construction bids.
It’s significant that Pasco will get a new interchange along one of the major state highways in the country, Cronin said.
Interstate 75 begins in the south at Miami Lakes, Florida and passes through five states before it ends at Sault St. Marie, Michigan, on the Canadian border.
While roadwork and new development, along State Road 54, State Road 52 and the Suncoast Parkway, are highly visible, the I-75 interchange’s potential can be overlooked, Cronin said.
But, its role in attracting developers for commercial, residential and industrial projects will be significant, he added.
“You’ve got pretty good sites for industrial growth,” he said.
And, projects, such as distribution centers, built on speculation, will attract new economic development, he said.
“As soon as you announce that, 10 are in there,” Cronin said. “Space is needed so badly.”
Even Connected City, with its residential and unique Crystal Lagoon, includes industrial in its overall master plan, Cronin said.
Development in the area off the Overpass interchange is well-suited for distribution and office centers “where staff will be driving to work,” Cronin said.
That is in contrast to Suncoast Parkway development, which has “more value for people flying in and out of airports,” he added.
One beneficiary of the new interchange is a former county-owned spray field just south of Overpass Road at the interchange.
Pasco County commissioners approved a land sale in December 2019, and an incentive package, to aid Atlanta-based Rooker Company in developing the 99-acre site as an industrial park.
In phase one, Rooker plans to build a 400,000-square-foot distribution center that is expected to bring hundreds of jobs to Pasco.
“We hope they’ll duplicate this over and over, and over again,” Cronin said.
Amid the new development, the Pasco Rural Protection Overlay District stands as a protection for rural lands and landscapes. Its borders generally are Bellamy Brothers Boulevard, the Green Swamp, State Road 52 and the Hernando County line.
Job creation and growth matters, said Cronin, but development decisions must be made with care.
“Once you use it, you can’t get it back,” he said. “There are a lot of things up there we don’t want to touch.”
In coming years, future and ongoing projects will create more east/west connections that will weave a network of new roadways. They include the Overpass interchange, but also extending State Road 56, widening and realigning State Road 52, and a realignment of U.S. 301 and U.S. 98, with connections to I-75 to the west, and Interstate 4 to the east.
“It’s coming together really well,” Cronin said. “The county has really championed this effort.”
The following highlights features of the new I-75/Overpass Road interchange:
- Overpass Road from Old Pasco Road to I-75 will be four lanes with bike lanes, a sidewalk on the south side of Overpass, and multi-use trail on the north side of Overpass.
- Overpass Road bridge will be four lanes with an eastbound to northbound turn-lane. The bridge will include bike lanes, a sidewalk and multi-use paths.
- Overpass Road from I-75 to Boyette Road will be six lanes with two auxiliary lanes, bike lanes, a sidewalk, multi-use path, turn lane improvements at Overpass and Boyette, and a traffic signal.
- A traffic signal will be installed at Old Pasco Road and Overpass.
- Blair Drive access to Overpass will be closed, but a new two-lane road constructed from Blair to Old Pasco, south of Overpass.
- Current McKendree Road access at Overpass will be relocated to alternate location on Boyette, north of Overpass.
- Current secondary entry into Wesley Chapel District Park will be closed, with park entrance reconfigured for multi-modes of transportation, including for pedestrians and bicyclists.
- Overpass between Old Pasco and Boyette will be closed for up to one year during interchange construction.
Published June 17, 2020