The blockades disappeared a few weeks ago, and suddenly Sunlake Boulevard was no longer a dead-end street at the construction site of Long Lake Ranch, the master-planned community south of State Road 54.
Motorists slowly are beginning to realize they can travel in a mostly straight line from State Road 54 in Pasco County to North Dale Mabry Highway in Hillsborough County, with a bonus of bypassing the traffic-clogged intersection of State Road 54 and U.S. 41.
Portions of the approximately 3-mile stretch provide a smooth, four-lane road for drivers, with a roundabout in the middle.
The road narrows to two lanes soon after passing Long Lake’s entrance. Varying speed limits are posted along the journey toward Hillsborough County, with the slowest speed of 20 mph through the roundabout.
At the southern end, Sunlake Boulevard enters Sunlake Park, a mature tree-lined neighborhood of 36 single-family homes, built in the 1960s. A series of three speed bumps and a speed limit of 25 mph keep speeders at bay.
“It’s convenient to drivers,” said Melissa Greene, commenting on the Sunlake Boulevard connection. She recently was waiting in mid-afternoon at the intersection of the boulevard and Evergreen Oak Drive for a Hillsborough County school bus to drop off her son.
But Greene and other parents at the school bus stop say they also worry about speeding motorists, increased traffic especially during rush hours, and confusing speed limits that change from one side of the road to the other.
They would like speed bumps similar to those in Sunlake Park.
“I don’t know if that would happen because there are no houses on every section of road,” Greene said. “It would be nice. It would slow people down.”
She also would like to see school buses drive into the subdivisions dotting the boulevard, but Greene said that might not happen.
Still Greene said, “We see drivers fly by here.”
The roundabout also is troublesome to some who worry about accidents as motorists approach and leave the traffic circle.
Heading south toward the roundabout, speed limits drop from 35 mph to 30 mph. On the opposite side on the same stretch of roadway, heading northward, speed limits bump up from 35 mph to 45 mph.
It’s confusing to drivers,” said Jennifer Todd, who waited with Greene for the school bus.
The sequence of speed limits meets national standards for road design for roundabouts, said Deborah Bolduc, Pasco County’s program administrator for engineering services. “It’s for safety reasons,” she said. “It’s supposed to do that.”
Hillsborough and Pasco signed off on the project, but Amprop Development Corp., did the road design and construction to extend Sunlake Boulevard. The company developed the Shoppes at Sunlake Centre on the north side of State Road 54, at Sunlake Boulevard. It also sold land to T. Rowe Price at the southwest corner of the intersection. However, the financial investment firm backed away from plans to build a campus there.
Making Sunlake Boulevard into a connector route has been part of long-range planning for decades, said Hillsborough County engineer Mike Williams. “As you make additional connections, it helps facilitate the distribution of traffic in the area.”
Heavily traveled North Dale Mabry Highway and U.S. 41 are expected to see some traffic diverted to the boulevard, but area residents say traffic congestion in their neighborhoods will only get worse — especially at Lutz Lake Fern Road and Sunlake Boulevard, and at the left-turn lane off North Dale Mabry Highway, near a 7-Eleven convenience store.
“That backs up pretty far, “ Greene said, describing the traffic at those intersections.
Published April 1, 2015