New stretch of State Road 56 will open later this week; help ease traffic trouble spot

Pasco County officials unveiled a new traffic solution for daily commuters on Tuesday.

Driving from Interstate 75 in Wesley Chapel to U.S. Highway 301 in Zephyrhills just became a lot easier thanks to a new six-mile extension of State Road 56. 

"We see a lot more traffic coming down Meadow Pointe from 56 to 54, so they want to get over to Zephyrhills and now that they will hopefully open up 56 right away, we'll see a lot less traffic coming down Meadow Pointe Boulevard," said Howard Engel, who lives in the Meadow Pointe area of Wesley Chapel. "You can't blame the people because that's their only entrance route into the Zephyrhills area. So now that they open up 56, that'll be super as far as the traffic is concerned."

"We're real excited and I know that it's going to take away a lot of that traffic because those people will have a shorter distance to get to 301 in Zephyrhills," added Natalie Engel, Howard's wife. "We're going to take a ride, we're going to see where it comes out on that 301 and hopefully it'll be close to some of the places that we enjoy eating."

Officials started the project in February 2017 and invested $59.7 million into construction and planning. 

If your daily commute takes you through southern Pasco County, then this is a shortcut that could shave several minutes off your drive.

"It's an awesome day for Pasco County," said Commissioner Mike Moore during a news conference Tuesday morning. "It's an awesome day for the citizens of Pasco County because it's going to bring a better quality of life for all of our citizens and it's going to bring opportunity to this area."

The extensions connect SR-56 from Meadow Pointe Boulevard to U.S. 301, where drivers would previously have to turn right or left at Meadow Point. The new stretch of road has four lanes in both directions with a divider, and 7-foot bike lanes on either side.

The north side of the road crews put in a 10-foot wide multi-use trail, and on the south side there's a five-foot wide sidewalk. 

Pasco leaders hope to open the road before the Wednesday evening commute but are telling drivers to expect lane closures in the coming weeks as crews put the finishing touches on the road.

Crews are still putting the finishing touches on the road, but plan to open in the next few days.