Growth is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to building, widening and re-aligning highways that crisscross Pasco County’s landscape.
Most highways in the county move north and south. It is the east to west connections that are often missing or out-of-date.
The recently approved 2015 Priority List of Highway Projects tapped into that scenario. The Florida Department of Transportation uses the list as a guide for its long-range planning, and in determining when and where to spend its state and federal dollars.
Among 15 projects identified by Pasco’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, all but two are in central and east Pasco. The top choices take aim at State Road 52 from its intersection with U.S. 41 in central Pasco to Dade City in east Pasco.
“It’s going to rectify a situation of having more direct east-west local connectors,” said James Edwards, Pasco County’s transportation planning manager. “It is going to be a growth center for the county.”
Also on the list is the intersection of State Road 54 and U.S. 41. The roads bisect Land O’ Lakes and serve as a clearinghouse for a high volume of truck and residential traffic.
The intersection is west of the retail explosion on State Road 54 and State Road 56, where Tampa Premium Outlets is slated to open in October. More shops, restaurants, hotels and rooftops are on their way in the next couple of years.
“What we’re faced with at the outlets (mall) will be congestion and future congestion,” Edwards said.
In September, the county plans to schedule workshops to get public input on the kinds of road projects needed to address traffic near the outlet mall, and between Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills.
By placing emphasis on State Road 52 now, county officials are hoping to come out ahead of the development curve with road upgrades, before developers start digging dirt for rooftops and retail.
The proposed roadwork is part of ongoing efforts to widen and realign an important regional corridor that could eventually stretch across Florida from west coastal Pasco to the U.S. 98 junction, and on to Palm Beach.
The state roads department is completing a study for a four-year plan to build a new four-lane State Road 52, south of the current highway that passes through San Antonio, Saint Leo and Dade City. This project envisions construction of an approximately 8.5 mile, four-lane extension of Clinton Avenue. Pedestrian and bicycle lanes will be built on either side of the highway. When that project is completed, the old highway would become County Road 52.
The state roads department anticipates that design work and right-of-way purchase will be done over the next two years.
Construction is slated for 2019, according to the department’s records.
In west Pasco, a segment of State Road 52 had a makeover in 2007 when it was widened to six lanes from Moon Lake Road to the Suncoast Parkway. Going east past the Suncoast, State Road 52 narrows to four then two lanes as it approaches Shady Hills Road.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization proposes construction along a major segment of roadway in central Pasco by widening it from two to four lanes from U.S. 41 to Bellamy Brothers Road.
Along with this, another priority is a north-south segment on U.S. 41, which would be widened to four lanes from Connerton Boulevard and the Ridge Road extension up to the intersection with State Road 52.
However, the caveat with all of the identified projects is that none has construction funds on the immediate horizon. County officials estimate the price tag for these projects is more than $750 million spread out over the next 25 years.
Funding will have to come from a mix of county, state and federal dollars.
These are the projects for central and east Pasco, according to county records:
- State Road 52 from U.S. 41 to Bellamy Brothers Boulevard will go from two lanes to four lanes. Preliminary engineering is underway.
- U.S. 41 from Connerton Boulevard/Ridge Road Extension to State Road 52 will go from two lanes to four lanes. Construction is anticipated in 2019-2020.
- State Road 52 and Clinton Avenue extension adds four lanes from east of Uradco Place to Fort King Road. Construction is anticipated in 2018-2019.
- State Road 54 at the U.S. 41 interchange is under study.
- Interstate 75, at Overpass Road/interchange from Old Pasco Road to Boyette Road, is set for construction in 2019-2020, with full funding by Pasco County.
- U.S. 98 at U.S. 301- Clinton Avenue intersection realignment. This is not funded.
- U.S. 301- Gall Boulevard redesign at Sixth and Seventh streets, from State Road 39 to County Road 54, is being planned. This construction is unfunded.
- State Road 56 at Interstate 75 interchange, from west of County Road 54 to west of Cypress Ridge Boulevard. Planning and engineering are scheduled in 2016-2017.
- U.S. 301 – Gall Boulevard will go from four lanes to six lanes from State Road 56 to State Road 39. Preliminary engineering is underway, but construction is unfunded.
- U.S. 301- Gall Boulevard from will go from four lanes to six lanes from County Road 54 at Eiland Boulevard to Kossik Road. Design is underway. Right of way and construction are unfunded.
- State Road 54 at Collier Parkway interchange. Right of way is funded over a 10-year period.
- State Road 56 will go from two lanes to four lanes from Meadow Pointe Boulevard to U.S. 301, near Zephyrhills. A state infrastructure bank loan is pending.
Published August 12, 2015