WESLEY CHAPEL — Pasco County could start construction on a new Interstate 75 interchange in the heart of the county in 2019.
Paul Steinman, Florida Department of Transportation District 7 secretary, told Pasco commissioners this week that the Federal Highway Administration has approved the interchange request at I-75 and Overpass Road.
“This is a huge accomplishment as all new interchange requests along the interstate system go up to Washington, D.C., for approval,” Steinman said.
County transportation officials first began planning for the interchange in 2007. The project calls for converting the highway overpass, located halfway between the State Road 54 and State Road 52 exits, into a full interchange by 2020. It will 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.
Overpass Road, which currently dead-ends at the Palm Cove subdivision, would be widened to six lanes and extended 9 miles east to connect with U.S. 301 in Zephyrhills.
“The exciting part about that is that it opens up the east side of the county for you,” Steinman said.
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 6 miles apart. The project also will be key to the future development of Pasadena Hills, which is slated for more than 40,000 homes.
The highway administration approval was also good news for the Pasco school district, which plans to build a new high school, middle school and bus maintenance facility on Old Pasco Road just north of Overpass Road. The high school, which initially would serve grades six through 12, is expected to open in 2017.
The county must start building the $55 million interchange within eight years or start the whole approval process over. County commissioners have earmarked $15 million in the next cycle of Penny for Pasco money to build the interchange. Mobility fees collected from the Pasadena Hills area will also go toward the project.
The county also must select one of three road alignments for the Overpass Road extension, all of which connect to Zephyrhills’ Kossik Road.
The road will cost an estimated $120 million.