Construction has begun, rather quietly, on the S.R. 56 extension project that is expected to have a huge impact on central-to-eastern Pasco traffic and development.
After years of trying to figure out a way to pay to extend S.R. 56 from Meadow Pointe Blvd. to U.S. Hwy. 301/S.R. 41, and then pulling off a complicated deal to get approval from the Pasco County Board of County Commissioners, ground finally started moving in February on the extension without a big kick-off.
“We wanted to do something, we just couldn’t make it happen with everyone’s schedule,’’ said District 2 Commissioner Mike Moore. “But, they are moving dirt, and that’s the important thing.”
Moore and others had tried to arrange a groundbreaking ceremony, but once the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the okay in early February, construction company Cone & Graham wasted little time digging in.
“We didn’t want anything to hold it up,’’ Moore said.
The road, which was originally envisioned as a two lanes, is now a four-lane $65-million project that is being touted as a big victory for economic development opportunities in the area, as well as increasing the tax base in both Zephyrhills and Wesley Chapel as new homes continue to be built throughout the area. The extension also will relieve traffic on both S.R. 54 and S.R. 56, and provide easier access to I-75. It also will open a new path to Morris Bridge Rd., which also connects into the New Tampa area.
Currently, Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills residents only have the two-lane S.R. 54 for east-west traveling between the areas, a trip that can be grueling during rush hours and other times.
But, S.R. 56 will provide more and easier access. And, with a widening of S.R. 54 project set to go for later this year, Moore says it will soon be “smooth sailing” for local commuters.
The S.R. 56 extension is a partnership with the City of Zephyrhills and four developers.
Funding for the project, which will cost less than $58 million (not including $8 million in interest), is being provided by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Pasco County, the City of Zephyrhills and the developers of Wesley Chapel Lakes, Wyndfields, River Landing and Two Rivers Ranch.
The developers are expected to add (gulp) more than 10,000 homes along the extended S.R. 56 from where it currently ends at Meadow Pointe Blvd. As for “soon,” the road is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
By then, Moore joked, the county will have a ceremony ready to go to celebrate its newest transportation improvement.