By now, most of Wesley Chapel residents realize that they have waved “so long” to the old northbound exit ramp for S.R. 56 and welcome two new and improved ramps to Exit 275 from I-75. The new improvements definitely seem to be easing traffic congestion for vehicles entering I-75 from the I-275 interchange, and also allow drivers from both interstate highways swift access to S.R. 56, especially during peak travel hours.
The new exit ramps are the latest edition of the ongoing interstate widening project in our area, according to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) spokesman John McShaffrey, which is coming along as scheduled. SEMA Construction, Inc., started the $31.4-million project on October 17, 2009.
“This is going to make things much easier for anyone trying to get on S.R. 56,” McShaffrey says. “Unless they miss the ramp the first time, and have to turn around, but after they get used to it, people will appreciate how much better this is (than the previous ramp).”
FDOT has erected three different signs to notify drivers on both I-75 and I-275 about the entrance to the new ramps, and to make sure that no one tries to access the old ramp to S.R. 56 – which, as of August 16, has been blocked off with road barriers and will no longer be accessible to any travelers. Vehicles that do enter the new exit ramps from I-75 and I-275 will meet at a two-lane, 2.3-mile- long stretch of highway that runs parallel with I-75 until it merges right onto S.R. 56. The important thing to note about the entrance off I-75 is that it is located nearly 2 miles closer to the Bruce B. Downs Blvd. exit off I-75 than the old one and is now south of where the County Line Rd. “apex” crosses the two interstates.
As of now, both lanes are open and have had a positive reception from the community. McShaffrey says that FDOT has made efforts to keep lane closures to a minimum on the new exit ramps, as further construction around the new lanes is still planned, although he says they are likely to take place during early morning hours.
Laying down a new top layer of pavement, and work around the medians will take place until the construction of the exit ramps has been completely finished, which FDOT officials estimate will be sometime in the spring of 2012. According to McShaffrey, the roadway may seem a bit rough until the final layer of asphalt has been placed on the ramp.
For drivers who do accidentally drive past the new exit ramp from I-75, it will mean driving 4.2 miles north until they can turn around at S.R. 54 (Exit 279) and then return to the S.R. 56 exit. According to McShaffrey, FDOT anticipates a few people driving past the new ramp, but he says if they do happen to miss their exit, it’s unlikely they will do it again.