Contractors on the State Road 56 extension are cleared to begin turning dirt.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit for the roadwork on Feb. 2.
The extension is considered an important project by residents, commercial interests and government officials, because it provides an important link for motorists traveling east and west across Pasco County.
“I’m excited,” said Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore. “It will bring traffic relief…and economic development all along the corridor.”
An official groundbreaking is in the planning stages but Moore said Cone & Graham Inc., would begin work as soon as possible. “We don’t want to hold them up,” he added.
A previous groundbreaking had been targeted for late January, but it took longer than expected for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review additional information that had been requested.
The road project will provide a four-lane extension of State Road 56 from Meadow Pointe Boulevard in Wiregrass Ranch to U.S. 301 in Zephyrhills.
Initial plans called for a two-lane extension.
However, nearly two years ago residents lobbied hard during a town hall meeting in Zephyrhills for an expanded project.
Area residents and Zephyrhills’ officials see the road as a major factor in easing traffic bottlenecks and supporting greater economic development.
Money became an issue.
But, Pasco County qualified in 2016 for a state loan of nearly $23 million to finance the project.
A loan repayment schedule allows the county to collect funds from developers and landowners along the corridor through mobility surcharge fees, or special assessments, if needed.
Property owners and developers along the route provided rights of way to Pasco County.
About half of the 6.7-mile extension runs through Two Rivers Ranch.
Cone & Graham is expected to cover any shortfall in expenses, with the county and the city of Zephyrhills as fall back in the event the contractor is fired or a new contractor hired.
In that scenario, estimates peg the county’s responsibility at about $1.5 million with Zephyrhills contributing 10 percent, or $150,000 to that amount.
Published February 15, 2017