There were days in my newspaper career where I’d tell the editor I don’t have anything for tomorrow’s paper, but I’ve got a bunch of stuff in the hopper.
I had planned on something but it required a fair amount of research, which I’m happy to do but ran out of time Monday.
But I have a bunch of stuff in the hopper, meaning they’re on my list to get to them. Here are two:
—The former Florida transportation secretary, Ananth Prasad, spoke to the Chamber of Commerce on Friday. I was looking forward to hearing more about the turnpike extension project, but other than telling us to start preparing for it he didn’t have much to offer.
Oh yeah, except this: Prasad seemed to indicate the route favored by transportation planners. He didn’t come right out and say it, but noting that the four preliminary alternative corridors are colored blue, red, yellow and purple on the turnpike extension map, Prasad indicated “blue” and “purple” are the most likely routes.
Here’s a link to the map. Blue is the line that avoids Citrus County and takes the turnpike through Sumter, Marion and Levy counties to U.S. 19 north of Inglis. Purple is the route that cuts across the northern third of Citrus near Holder and Citrus Springs, emptying onto U.S. 19 at Red Level.
You may be thinking, “Mike, we need to know this now!” Hey, I hear you. I’m looking for a GIS map or something interactive so I can bear down onto that purple line and see what’s in the way.
I’ve asked FDOT for such a map and am awaiting a response. If anyone knows of an interactive map like that of the turnpike corridors (from a government website please), feel free to post the link here.
— Perusing the county email I every so often see one from a Pine Ridge resident upset about the Suncoast Parkway extending to C.R. 486 just east of the community’s entrance. Many in Pine Ridge are not happy about this for a number of reasons, especially that traffic will use Pine Ridge Boulevard as a through-route to C.R. 491 north toward Ocala.
What interested me was not so much the resident’s concerns but County Administrator Randy Oliver’s response.
A little background: The county’s reasoning for wanting an interchange at C.R. 486 has never been too clear. At first it was for fear the state would stop at S.R. 44 and the county wanted to ensure it continued northward. Then there was concern that C.R. 491 wouldn’t be widened in time for the additional traffic.
Oliver, however, has always been fairly consistent in his responses. He believes C.R. 486 is underutilized, and traffic coming on or off the parkway will add to that.
Here is what he wrote:
“We believe, from an engineering and economic development prospective, that the entrance to the Suncoast on CR 486 is important. The reason for this is some coming across from Ocala or the center of the state would use US 41 or SR 200 and then CR 486. Then to get to Tampa they would use the Suncoast entrance on CR 486.
“Without that entrance, they would need to turn left onto CR 491 and right on SR 44. Prior to the intersection improvements, at SR 44 and CR 491, that intersection had a level of service ‘F’. Additionally, SR 44 is approaching capacity. The additional traffic movements, without the interchange at CR 486, would make those sections of CR 491 and SR 44 fail at some point in the future. There is a significant amount of excess capacity on CR 486.”
Remove the government speak and what he’s saying about S.R. 44 shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. It's packed with cars. And what he says about C.R. 486 isn’t a surprise either.
So here’s the challenge, commissioners and public: How do we best utilize C.R. 486 so that it does what it’s supposed to do WITHOUT it turning into another congested S.R. 44?
Perhaps a countywide transportation master plan could solve that riddle. Someone should suggest it.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.