Residents of Northwood, long-frustrated over the Northwood Palms Blvd. that cuts through their community and has been serving as a through-road from County Line Rd. to S.R. 56, now have an even bigger reason to be flustered by the road— it is closed, sending that same traffic through their neighborhoods.
Due to the emergency repair of a sewer main along the Northwood Palms Blvd., residents and other commuters must now use Breakers Dr. to get from County Line Rd. to S.R. 56.
While Northwood Palms Blvd. runs past the community’s subdivisions, Breakers Dr. passes right through those neighborhoods and much closer to homes, on a road often used by those casually walking their dogs and riding their bikes.
What was once a few dozen cars driven by residents leaving and returning to their homes on Breakers Dr. has become hundreds of travelers trying to cut through and avoid traffic both on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. and the S.R. 56 and I-75 intersection.
“It is truly a nightmare,” says Steve Miller, a resident of the Carlyle subdivision.
NOTE: Since this article was printed, Pasco County announced that Breakers Dr. would be closed to thru traffic beginning May 29. Drivers will have to use additional detours on SR 56, Bruce B. Downs Blvd. and County Line Road.
Residents at the Northwood CDD meeting on May 13 were able to meet with county officials, including director of operations and maintenance Jason Mickel, with most of their questions centering around concerns about the additional traffic through their neighborhoods, especially where buses pick up and drop off children.
Only one of the questions at the meeting was actually related to the actual utility work, Mickel says.
“They are definitely frustrated,” he said. “We detoured the traffic, and cars are driving through Breakers Dr. and the residents are really frustrated with that. We are doing everything we can to move this project along as quickly as possible.”
The $3-million project, however, is a large one, and will take at least four months of utility workers putting in 12-hour days to complete it.
Mickel says during routine maintenance of the sewer lines, some problems were discovered with the ductile iron pipes (DIP), which weren’t properly coated when they were installed.
“Esssentially, the integrity of the pipe was compromised,” he said. “We got a lot of infiltration into the pipes from ground water, gravel and sand from the road beds. It gets in the pipes and moves along and scours the pipe. It was in pretty bad condition.”
Mickel got approval for the emergency work, and he hopes the 12-hour shifts will expedite the repairs. The sewer line has been re-routed, so residents will not be affected as 3,000 feet of pipe is re-lined.
“But, we’re going to be there for a while,” Mickel says.
Resident Jen Lavelle, who also lives in Carlyle, said she felt a little better after attending the CDD meeting and hearing from Mickel. But, she is concerned the repairs won’t be completed for four months.
She says she also is concerned that the repairs are taking place over the summer, when kids will be home from school and outside biking and playing in their neighborhoods even more than usual.
“A lot of parents won’t let them go outside and ride their bikes,” Lavelle says.
Parents are doing what they can to slow the additional traffic down. Some cars have driven around school buses loading and unloading children, ignoring the flashing arm with the stop sign on it.
Some have gathered to lock arms and form a human barricade behind the school bus, to assure no cars try to pass.
While there are signs telling drivers that no through traffic is allowed, Lavelle thinks only 10 percent of vehicles actually heed the warning. In order to combat speeders, she says many residents have banded together to drive well below the 30 mile per hour speed limit, slowing down the vehicles behind them.
Josue Marquez, the Northwood on-site property manager, says residents are frustrated with the traffic as a result of the repairs, but adds that Northwood Palms Blvd. has long been a point of contention for those in the community.
“We get a lot of heavy trucks, construction trucks passing through, and we get a lot of speeders going like 50-60 miles per hour because it’s faster than Bruce B. Downs,” Marquez says.
Although the Northwood entrance off County Line Rd. has a guard house, it has never had a gate or been restricted.
But, when it began development in 1985, the area around Northwood was still relatively sparse when it came to businesses and homes.
During Wesley Chapel’s growth boom since then, the traffic in the area has increased.
“When they built it, everyone was used to this place being a private community, but it has basically turned into a freeway everyone uses to get around,” Marquez said. “None of the residents are happy with it.”
Now that the same traffic is being detoured through a smaller road lined with homes and occupied by families with children, that unhappiness has grown.
Lavelle said her 13-year-old son can’t even cross the street at times, waiting five minutes for a car to stop and allow him. She said her 3-year-old recently got a tricycle, but they can’t take the risk of letting her ride it in the driveway.
Miller says that when Northwood Palms Blvd. opened all the way to S.R. 56, he saw that as a major benefit for residents who needed access to the interstate. And while the increased traffic was worrisome, it wasn’t affecting the roads through the subdivisions.
“I think we’ve gone from 50 cars a day to 8,000 cars,” Miller said. “We now get everything from Coca-Cola trucks to car carriers to moving companies, right down Breakers Drive, breaking off tree limbs.”
Miller said his wife used to run on the road in the morning, but it’s gotten too dangerous.
“And walking your dogs is a nightmare,” he added.
Miller and Lavelle both says residents have contacted the county, as well as Kathyrn Starkey, the commisioner who represents their area, about a solution to limit the traffic on Breakers Dr..
A popular suggestion is to shut Northwood Palms Blvd. down at the northernmost roundabout. That would prevent anyone from using Breakers Dr. as a through-road to S.R. 56 to turn back around and exit back onto County Line Rd.
Anyone entering from S.R. 56 would reach the same roundabout and have to turn back as well.
Lavelle says she is on the board of the Northwood Homeowners Association, and says the association has contacted Google Maps and Apple Maps so that when people use their apps for directions, Northwood Palms Blvd. isn’t an option for the next four months.
“We just have to hope it’s only four months,” Lavelle says.