The work around the junction of S.R. 56 and I-75 is beginning to show some progress, as efforts pick up to finish the Diverging Diamond Interchange by the end of 2021.(Photo: FDOT).

If you’ve been by the construction site of the Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) at the junction of I-75 and S.R. 56, you may have noticed a difference from past trips.

More machines. More workers. More dirt being moved.

Just over a month after Pasco County commissioners, particularly District 2 Commissioner Mike Moore (whose district includes much of Wesley Chapel), criticized the efforts of D.A.B. Constructors, Inc. — and expressed disappointment that the project would not finish on time — the work has clearly picked up in the area.

“There has been significant improvement,” Moore says. “I want to thank D.A.B. and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for getting this back on schedule.”

Moore said he met with both D.A.B. and FDOT, and as a result, he is feeling more confident that the project will finish closer to its original finishing date of sometime in the fall of 2021, as opposed to fears construction would stretch well into 2022.

“I feel good about what I heard,” Moore said.

The $33-million project also had drawn the ire of more than 20 local businesses, who signed a letter to Moore and District 3 Commissioner Kathryn Starkey expressing concern about the progress.

Community outreach manager John McShaffrey says FDOT has continued to look for opportunities to move the project forward, “including working with the contractor on alternate materials, construction phasing, and other ways to shorten the construction duration.”

With traffic thicker than usual due to the holidays, there aren’t too many things FDOT can do to ease congestion right now, although it is suggesting alternate routes to get in and out of the Tampa Premium Outlets and Cypress Creek Town Center areas. FDOT also has made efforts to assist in traffic flow since before Thanksgiving by:

 * Adding message boards on S.R. 56 westbound advising drivers to use the next two signals (the entrance off S.R. 56 and the entrance off the Wesley Chapel Blvd. extension) to enter the outlet mall.

* Adding message boards on S.R. 54 eastbound advising that drivers can turn right where Wesley Chapel Blvd. meets S.R. 56 to enter the outlet mall.

* Setting traffic signals to “holiday timing” (a common practice near mall areas) to maximize traffic flow.

* Adding message boards on southbound I-75, north of the S.R. 54 Exit 279, to encourage traffic to use the S.R. 54 exit to avoid backups on the Exit 275 ramp to S.R. 56.

* Adjusting the setup of the barrier wall on the southbound I-75 exit ramp to give a little more space for drivers turning right (westbound) onto SR 56.

* Installing additional cameras for FDOT’s traffic management staff to better monitor traffic at all of the signalized intersections.

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