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DOT puts SR 54 work in high gear

The project manager says the road widening should start in October and take about a year.

By JAMES THORNER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2000


LAND O'LAKES -- The state Department of Transportation is accelerating the State Road 54 widening project in Land O'Lakes, proposing a completion date as much as a year ahead of schedule.

That's good news for drivers accustomed to traffic that during peak hours is stacked as much as a half-mile deep at SR 54 and Collier Parkway.

"I'm ecstatic," said County Commissioner Pat Mulieri, whose district encompasses central Pasco County.

"The people of Land O'Lakes have sat through construction a long time. At last they see the light at the end of the tunnel."

The DOT expects to begin the 4-mile project, from U.S. 41 east to Cypress Creek Road, in October.

Project manager Margaret Smith said she anticipates finishing Phase 1 of the project, from U.S. 41 to just beyond Collier Parkway, in as little as six months. Much of that section of the road will be six lanes.

The final leg of the project, widening the road from two lanes to four lanes from Collier to Cypress Creek, would take about another six or seven months.

That means the redesigned SR 54 would be finished about a year before the previously projected completion date in the fall of 2002.

Considering the increasing traffic load in quickly suburbanizing central Pasco, the DOT felt SR 54 widening should have top priority, Smith said.

The highway pulls triple duty as a commuter link to Tampa, a cross-county thoroughfare and a popular shopping district.

Among the stores helping draw thousands of cars daily are Wal-Mart, Kmart, Publix and Winn-Dixie. A huge shopping center is envisioned for the northwest corner of SR 54 and Collier, now a horse farm.

"We feel Land O'Lakes needs this done more than anything else," Smith said. "This is where the traffic crush has been."

The widening of SR 54 coincides with the projected June 2001 opening of the new SR 56.

That highway, which will shorten the commute from Land O'Lakes to Tampa by several miles, will begin near Cypress Creek, intersect Interstate 75 and terminate at Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

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