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SR 56 soon to deliver a break for drivers

WESLEY CHAPEL — Anitha Thomas sees it every day when school begins and ends. The two roads that come together in front of her Kids R Kids preschool are a mess of high schoolers' cars and middle schoolers' bikes.

She considers that as one dangerous combination.

"I see constant concerns; I see people run through a red light," said Thomas, whose center sits at where County Line Road dead-ends at Mansfield Boulevard in the Meadow Pointe II development.

Relief for drivers should come soon when crews finish the State Road 56 leg that connects that road to Mansfield and opens up a new route for a neighborhood that for years enjoyed only one access point.

If some of the high schoolers take SR 56, then it might make things safer for the middle school bicyclists, Thomas said. It also will give parents rushing to make pick-up times at her center another route.

The SR 56 extension also gives another access point to traffic coming in and out of John Long Middle and Wiregrass Ranch High schools on Mansfield.

Officials with the Florida Department of Transportation say the work is nearing completion. They expect the road to open in mid February. The department had hoped to have it open at the end of this month but recent cold weather set things back slightly, DOT spokeswoman Kris Carson said.

The project is part of a $24-million, 3-mile extension that will eventually connect SR 56 to Meadow Pointe Boulevard, is being paid for by developers of Wiregrass Ranch and Meadow Pointe.

Linda Straw, a member of the Meadow Pointe II Community Development District Board, said she is glad the road is opening but worries it will put pressure on Pasco officials to connect Mansfield Boulevard to Kinnan Road in Hillsborough County. The two roads now dead end just feet apart.

Kinnan was built for $2.2-million by the developers of Live Oak Preserve, the housing development to the west. It was to be a busy corridor connecting Pasco's Meadow Pointe to Hillsborough's Cross Creek. It also was to carry traffic into Live Oak and a younger development to the east, K-Bar Ranch. But Live Oak's developers, with Hillsborough's blessing, decided to make their roads private.

Pasco officials, meanwhile, grew fearful that hordes of Hillsborough drivers would flood into Meadow Pointe if Kinnan were opened into Mansfield. So Pasco County isn't considering opening that connection until another major artery, State Road 56, is extended east to Mansfield. Finally, the section of K-Bar abutting Kinnan remains in the planning stages.

"I guess I have mixed feelings," Straw said.

Lisa Buie can be reached at buie@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4604.

SR 56 soon to deliver a break for drivers 01/28/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 9:52pm]

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