By Sean Bowes

Many of the traffic cones have been removed, and so have most of the plastic barricades. Drivers in Wesley Chapel are finally enjoying the much- less-congested S.R./C.R. 54 from I-75 to just east of Curley Rd (CR 577) with a road that is now six lanes wide.

The heavily traveled road has been opened up to six lanes wide since December 16. Pasco chief project manager Robert Shepherd said that it was a goal for Pepper Contracting Services, the contracting company for the project, to finish in time for the holidays and, despite some finishing touches needed to the black top in some locations, particularly S.R. 54’s new turn lanes, that goal has been achieved. The project was originally slated to be completely finished in late April, and while there was still some work to be done at our press time, officials expect all of the construction work to be done by the end of January. The S.R. 54 widening project has been under construction since April 2010.

At our press time, Pepper Contracting workers were completing the side street work near sidewalks and new bike lanes. Drivers should still expect to see construction taking place during the day, with some lane shifts during non peak travel times. For the time being, Shepherd says that drivers should continue to use caution and observe the 35 MPH construction zone speed limit, as there will continue to be construction workers in the area until, at the latest, the beginning of February.

The widening project on that section of S.R. 54 has been one of the most expensive road projects in Pasco County, costing $28 million, but the widening was sorely needed. State traffic counts from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) show that roughly 38,000 cars travel S.R. 54 between I-75 and Curley Rd. every business day.

Other work taking place during the final stages of the project includes the final lane striping, completion of the asphalt surface on turn lanes as well as cleaning up medians and laying down new sections of sod.

Once the work is totally completed on the 3.2-mile stretch, the speed limit will be raised back to 45 mph from its construction limit of 35 mph.

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