Right turns are all that's left
Today’s topic: the vanishing left turn.
Not just any left turn. The left turn onto practically any major roadway in Citrus County and a lot of the minor ones.
Or left turns at some signalized intersections that don’t have the red/yellow/green arrow. Been through Holder lately on C.R. 491 to turn left at U.S. 41? With no turn arrow and a constant stream of cars coming from the opposite direction, it could be a long wait.
Left turns are vanishing for a number of reasons, especially these three:
— Lots of traffic moving rather fast.
— Lots of traffic hardly moving at all.
— Lots of traffic.
Left turns from parking lots or side streets were once commonplace not all that long ago. Now, who’s taking a left onto U.S. 41? Or U.S. 19? Or S.R. 44 in Inverness?
For some people, this issue has gone on for quite some time. In the last year, I’ve seen numerous emails to county commissioners from Black Diamond residents seeking a traffic signal at the development entrance on C.R. 491 where, truth be told, was a pretty tough left even before things got crazy.
Hampshire and C.R. 491 is another one that will only get worse.
Of course, the poster child for the bad left at the moment is Horace Allen Street at 491. This is the Maylen Avenue shortcut I’m always railing about.
Eventually, there will be a traffic signal at Horace Allen/491 but it’s part of the road widening project, so we’re at least two years from seeing a signal installed.
Meanwhile, it’s a true mess. The photo I have shows two cars. I hear stories of a dozen cars backed up onto Horace Allen to turn left because well, it’s 491 at the bottleneck where four lanes become two and it’s hard to sneak out there.
I know we go to the traffic signal as the solution to the left turn dilemma but it’s not that simple. For one thing, there are more crashes at signalized intersections than those without traffic lights. (Often from trying to beat the red by turning left on the yellow in front of traffic.)
Plus, traffic signals stop traffic on the main road, a little too much for my liking. Not saying they’re unnecessary, but we need to know they’re causing huge traffic backups.
was driving through Crystal River last Sunday — SUNDAY! — and it took 15 minutes to get past Citrus Avenue.
Not much the city can do about that. Lots of pedestrian traffic crossing U.S. 19, particularly on the weekends. And backup on Citrus Avenue as well.
Crystal River is a popular place.
Same with Inverness. I never know if it’s going to take me 2 minutes or 10 minutes getting through the business district on a Sunday morning. Traffic signals are always the wild card. One or two red lights and the line of cars just grows.
In other left-turn/traffic signal business:
— I posted a photo recently of the new traffic signal on S.R. 44 at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Crystal River. Several people rightly wondered why the signal was activated while the road was under construction, already causing backups.
I asked City Manager Ken Frink that question. He said that, while the city requested the signal, the schedule rests entirely with the Florida Department of Transportation and its contractor. The city had nothing to do with it.
Now we know.
— Some folks have asked what happened to Commissioner Jeff Kinnard’s idea for a traffic signal at Gospel Island Road and S.R. 44 (another challenging left) east of Inverness.
Well, that was kind of interesting. Kinnard sent his request to FDOT, which did one of its studies and said, “Hey, you’re right. That intersection deserves a signal.”
Good news! Um, no.
FDOT said it doesn’t have the $1 million for the traffic signal and won’t for a few years. In effect: “Citrus County, we’ll install it if you want to cover the cost.”
As much as we want the signal, that’s not how to do things. The state doesn’t demand payment from local governments to move up projects, much like you’d slip the maitre’d a twenty to get a table away from the kitchen.
So, short answer: Probably not coming any day soon.
Careful with your lefts today, friends.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.