I-75 widening project is about to start in Pasco County

For years, Jack Hart has complained about the noise coming from I-75. He lives in the Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club and compares the highway sounds at his house to being at a concert and sitting next to the speakers. 
 
And that's pre-construction.
 
The Florida Department of Transportation hosted an open house Tuesday to answer questions about the I-75 widening project in Pasco County that's scheduled to start next week. 
 
"It's going to be widening I-75 all the way from north of CR 54 all the way up to the Hernando County line," said FDOT spokesman John McShaffrey . 
 
The two-phase project spanning more than 14 miles will create six lanes on the interstate. Officials believe the expansion will help smooth out problems on the heavily-trafficked corridor.
 
"It's essential for congestion and simply to move people and goods," McShaffrey said.
 
Seemingly far from people's minds were the kinds of problems drivers encountered on I-275 this week as crews replaced a temporary traffic lane. The repairs had cars backed up for miles.
 
Project officials do not foresee that happening again with this construction.
 
"We're not dealing with prior construction. Everything that the contractors will be working on, for the most part, out there is their own work so they'll be building it from under the ground up," McShaffrey said.
 
Many who attended the open house seemed to feel the end result will make the temporary frustrations worthwhile.
 
"I think it's a great idea," said Ed Mumau. "We'll have more space, more room, easier to drive, less chance of getting - I think - into fender benders."
 
But it won't solve the noise. 
 
Hart believes that'll take a sound wall. He said he's reached out to local congressional leaders, but he's not having much luck.
 
"It's like talking to a wall when you're talking to them," Hart said. "Everybody wants a wall and nobody is listening to us."
 
Project officials believe installing a sound wall would add millions of dollars to the already expensive project. They said they must follow federal guidelines.
 
"Noise studies are done. They're objective studies," said McShaffrey. "It determines who really needs one and who will benefit from one and whether or not it's cost affordable."
 
The first phase of the project, the widening of I-75 from SR 52 to the Hernando County line, is scheduled to start April 14. Its estimated construction cost is $46 million. The second phase, from CR 54 to SR 52, is scheduled to start May 27. Its estimated construction cost is $71.3 million.
 
The entire project should be complete by spring 2017. 
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