Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014
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Feds OK new I-75 interchange in Pasco

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Pasco County has received preliminary approval from the Federal Highway Administration to convert Overpass Road into a full access interchange with Interstate 75.

The project calls for converting the highway overpass, located halfway between the State Road 54 and 52 exits, into a full interchange by 2020. Overpass Road, which dead ends at the Palm Cove subdivision, would be widened to six lanes and extended nine miles east to connect with U.S. 301 in Zephyrhills.

“It’s a new interchange, so it can take up to four or five years to get a new one through,” said David Winkle, a planning analyst for the Florida Department of Transportation.

He said DOT supports the project, but the Federal Highway Administration has the final say. County commissioners have earmarked $15 million in the next cycle of Penny for Pasco to build the interchange. The estimated cost ranges from $51 million to $95 million, depending on the design.

Winkle said the interchange would be built as a traditional diamond interchange and converted to a “flyover” style — like the Bruce B. Downs Boulevard interchange in New Tampa — in the future. The county and DOT plan to buy the additional right-of-way for the flyover ramp upfront.

Commissioner Ted Schrader said the new interchange can also be an economic tool to lure the type of high-quality development already at the two Wesley Chapel exits further north. “There is extensive development that has already been approved east of the interstate, but much of it is residential,” Schrader said. “This opens up the opportunity for more retail and an office component.”

Pasco County conducted an interchange feasibility study in 2007, and the more detailed “Interchange Justification Report” is nearly complete. The county also must select one of three roadway alignments for the Overpass Road extension, all of which connect to Zephyrhills’ Kossik Road.

The road will cost an estimated $120 million.

Transportation officials think Pasco County doesn’t have enough highway interchanges to serve its population. The S.R. 52 and S.R. 54 exits are more than six miles apart. The project also will be key to the future development of Pasadena Hills, which is slated for more than 40,000 homes.

With the addition of the interchange, projected traffic counts on Overpass Road in front of Palm Cove would increase twelvefold in 30 years — to about 60,000 vehicles per day.

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