By Sean Bowes
By the time this issue of Wesley Chapel Neighborhood News arrives in your mailbox, the section of S.R./C.R. 54 from west of I-75 to just east of Curley Rd (CR 577) should finally be six lanes wide, allowing travelers to enjoy their ride on the section of road which has been under construction since April 2010.
The original completion date for the widening project was April 2012 and although the road should be six-lanes (three lanes in each direction) wide by December 16, Pasco County officials say there will still be some finishing touches that will need to be done on the stretch of road which has been called Wesley Chapel’s busiest. State traffic counts from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) show that roughly 38,000 cars travel between S.R. 54 between I-75 and Curley Rd. every day.
“During the holidays, work will be suspended from December 23 till January 3, but all six lanes will be open during this period,” says Pasco chief project manager Robert Shepherd. “After the holidays, the work that will remain will be the placement of the remaining final asphalt surface and cleaning up any damaged work.”
According to Shepherd, the last stages of work should still be done by mid-late January, more than two months ahead of schedule.
Pepper Contracting Services, the contracting company for the project, originally offered the bid to work on the project start to finish for $28 million. Shepherd says Pepper’s efforts are the primary reason that the project will be done ahead of schedule.
“They (Pepper Contracting) brought in a ton of equipment and manpower and put in some long hours (to finish the project),” said Shepherd.
Slow It Down!
Most of the community will be happy to see the construction come a to finish, especially those with “lead feet.” The number of speeding tickets handed out on the 3.2-mile stretch was not readily available from the Pasco Sheriff’s Office (PCSO), but public information officer Kevin Doll confirmed that deputies and Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) troopers already have been cracking down on speeders on that section of S.R. 54.
According to Doll, the presence of construction workers, heavy machinery and a reduced speed limit to 35 mph (from its original 45 mph) were the reasons PCSO has been pulling over speeders on S.R. 54. and the last mile or so of Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd.
The speed limit will be raised back up to 45 mph after 54 opens back up to six lanes.
“When the road opens up and the speed limit goes up, it doesn’t mean we still won’t be out there (writing tickets),” Doll warns.
In addition to the road work, Pepper Contracting worked to improve storm drains, add new street lights, sidewalks on both sides as well as bicycle path on both sides of S.R. 54. Also, new traffic signals have been added on S.R. at Old Pasco Rd., Gateway Blvd., I-75, Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd., Porter Blvd., Saddlebrook Way and Curley Rd.
Private utility companies such as Brighthouse and Verizon have upgraded the area’s phone and cable services in during the construction and Pasco County Utilities also upgraded its water, sewer and reclaimed water lines.