Gov. Rick Scott, a year after vetoing $15 million for a project to build an interchange at I-75 and Overpass Rd. (see map), allowed the same amount of money to stay in the upcoming state budget this time around.
The money won’t completely fund the approximately $64-million project, but it’s a large enough chunk that the interchange can begin to move forward.
According to Pasco County commissioner Mike Moore, who represents much of Wesley Chapel in District 2, the proposed interchange will not only relieve some of the traffic at the S.R. 56 and S.R. 54 exits in Wesley Chapel, it also will improve the safety conditions on the surrounding state roads by improving additional emergency evacuation and response times within the county.
The interchange also will be built with an eye to future development.
“It’s going to be a big help in that area,’’ says Moore, referencing large developments like the Villages of Pasadena Hills in Zephyrhills and the Connected City project in northern Wesley Chapel.
The Connected City is almost 8,000 acres of land currently under development and running north from Overpass Rd. in Wesley Chapel to S.R. 52 in San Antonio, and east from I-75 to Curley Rd. Expected to be a high-tech business sector, it will feature two Crystal Lagoons in the Mirada and Epperson communities, and (according to developer Metro Development), at the conclusion of its 50-year build out, the Connected City will have 37,000 homes, 67,000 jobs and 100,000 residents.
And those aren’t the only developments coming to this still-rural area. Quail Hollow is adding 400 homes on the former golf course property, and Cypress Creek Middle/High School on Old Pasco Rd. also is new to the area.
“We want to prepare for 20, 30 and 40 years down the road, and that’s what’s happening now,” Moore says of the interchange project, which was first approved in 2004 but was discussed for more than a decade before that.
The plan to build a new I-75 interchange at Overpass Rd., which will be roughly 3.1 miles north of the S.R. 54 exit and 3.6 miles south of the S.R. 52 exit, is part of a larger project to link Old Pasco Rd. all the way east to U.S. Hwy. 301 in Zephyrhills.
The project was identified in the 2009 Pasco Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)’s Transportation Update Plan through 2035 “Needs Plan.” That plan scheduled the new interchange, extension and expansion of Overpass Rd. to be completed between 2016-25.
Moore says the county thinks the project will be completed by November of 2022, as there already is $30 million (not including the $15 million in the new state budget) set aside for the project from mobility fees, local gas taxes and various developer surtaxes. The county is seeking grants to cover the remaining $20-million portion of the costs.
It will begin planning this year for right of way acquisitions, with $12 million earmarked for that process. Next year, $4.6 million will go into the design phase, and the remaining $47 million will go towards construction costs.
Overpass Rd. is currently a two-lane roadway that extends east from Old Pasco Rd. to 0.86 miles east of Boyette Rd.
In addition to adding an interstate exit, Overpass Rd. will be widened to four lanes from I-75 to Old Pasco Rd. as part of the project.
The interchange is part of a larger project to extend Overpass Rd. nine miles from its current eastern terminus at Boyette Rd. all the way to U.S. Hwy. 301.
Moore says Pasco County did well in the latest legislative sessions, crediting Florida Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson (whose 10th Senate District incudes northern Wesley Chapel) and State Representative Danny Burgess (R-Dist. 38) for their efforts.
After vetoing $22 million worth of Pasco projects last year, Scott let roughly that same amount stay in the budget this year, including $4.3 million for the Thomas Varnadoe Forensic Center for Research & Education in Land O’Lakes and $1.5 million for the Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired & Blind in Port Richey.