RIDGE MANOR — Although at least five years away, the Florida Department of Transportation is busy evaluating what it will take to bring the proposed widening of Interstate 75 in Hernando and Pasco counties to fruition.
The agency revealed its plans at a public hearing Thursday evening at the Ridge Manor Community Center in an effort to see what residents think.
The estimated $172.2 million construction project, which has yet to win the necessary funding, would widen the existing four-lane highway to eight lanes from State Road 52 in Pasco County to County Road 476 near Bushnell in Sumter County. Additionally, the interchange at State Road 50 in Hernando County would be reconstructed.
According to Amy Neideringhaus, project manager with the DOT's District 7, construction of the roadway is not included in the district's current five-year funding projections. However, $13.8 million has been budgeted for right-of-way acquisition.
About 80 residents turned out for the presentation by DOT engineers, which consisted of maps and drawings of the proposed changes in Phase 1.
Adding the lanes will require extensive modifications to the existing roadway and bridges, plus restructuring of underpasses at SR 50 and County Road 41 in Hernando County. In addition, the proposed plan calls for additional stormwater drainage improvements along the highway.
Ridge Manor resident Kathy Westerman said she was concerned that the widening project might bring additional noise from traffic to her otherwise quiet neighborhood east of the interstate.
Neideringhaus said that noise considerations are part of the ongoing study.
"We're only 60 percent complete with the design phase, so things like noise abatement will be thoroughly looked into," Neideringhaus said.
A major corridor on the west side of Florida, I-75 serves intrastate travel and evacuation needs along the state's west coast, in addition to supporting commuting, trade and tourism activities in the Tampa Bay region.
The widening project was originally approved by the Federal Highway Administration in 2007. Since then, studies have focused on identifying and analyzing various design concepts to meet the future traffic needs.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.