LAND O'LAKES — Motorists who take Shady Hills Road should get ready to allow for extra time starting Wednesday as work crews begin a six-month reconstruction of the road.
Workers will detour cars along a 3-mile stretch of Shady Hills between Softwind Lane and State Road 52, though only a mile of Shady Hills Road will be affected by the project.
Cars traveling south on Shady Hills will be detoured onto Softwind Lane, then directed to Hudson Avenue and Hays Road, which leads to SR 52.
Local traffic will be permitted to travel to homes and businesses on Shady Hills, as well as to Dr. Mary Giella Elementary School at 14710 Shady Hills Road.
Pasco County officials say the $2.3 million project will improve safety, especially along several narrow turns. Crews plan to add 4 to 5 feet of asphalt onto the sides of the two-lane road and smooth out some ripples and bumps. Then the mile-long stretch will be repaved.
But before they tackle those phases, crews plan to dig up about 400 feet of Shady Hills to remove loose soil about 10 below the surface.
"There's a pocket of deep muck. We need to remove that material and replace it with clean fill," said John Chiarelli, assistant director of engineering services for Pasco County.
The project is expected to add to motorists' commutes and cause snarls, especially along already-busy Hays Road west of the Suncoast Parkway.
About 11,500 vehicles travel on Shady Hills Road daily.
Some drivers said they're glad to see the work get started.
"I won't even drive on it anymore," said Joe Schaefer of New Port Richey.
A financial adviser, Schaefer is often in his car visiting clients. He tried driving on Shady Hills a few years ago, seeking a shortcut, but avoids it now, calling it "too narrow" and "dangerous."
"If you go off the road, you're going to have a real problem," he said.
The road was the scene of a serious accident last summer when a member of the Sunlake High School wrestling team crashed while trying to negotiate a sharp left turn.
Kasey Brant Reisinger's pickup skidded off the wet highway and struck two trees, sending the 18-year-old senior to the hospital.
Another motorist, Kathy Zweeres of Hudson, said she understands the safety concerns but isn't exactly thrilled about the detour. She travels on Shady Hills once or twice a week.
"It's going to be really busy. I'm worried about the traffic, but what's your alternative?" she said.
Contact Rich Shopes at email@example.com or (727) 869-6236. Follow @richshopes.