Ever have one of those days when you know even from the morning what tomorrow’s blog is going to be, and that’s exciting because it takes pressure off the day, but as the hours go by you can’t even think of the first sentence, and next thing it’s 6 p.m., and the screen is blank?
The idea was so simple: Road projects. We have lots of them in Citrus County at the moment. Flashing message boards are everywhere telling me to drive slowly or watch out for backed-up traffic.
For all our griping about state road projects the truth is we’re doing quite well now that U.S. 41 in Inverness has started, and U.S. 19 is in the final stretches.
So, let’s plow through.
Last week in Tallahassee I attended a meeting with Citrus County chamber folks and Florida Department of Transportation.
Traffic is the biggest indicator of growth. We can see more people moving, shopping and dining here because what once was a 30-minute drive from Inverness to Crystal River is now 45 minutes.
A handful of Citrus business leaders met with three FDOT officials, including District 7 Secretary David Gwynn. These meetings generally go this way from the Citrus side:
“Thank you for all you’ve done. We need more.”
Then the conversation quickly would turn to the Suncoast Parkway, or U.S. 41, or U.S. 19.
This year, very little of that. Because — look around — they’re on it.
Suncoast Parkway? Funded for construction clear to U.S. 19.
U.S. 19 widening? Expected to be completed by spring.
U.S. 41? Work started in October, and the way the state carved up the widening, ensures continuous construction for years as it moves northward.
FDOT has a great website that has all the Citrus County state road projects, their progress and, if work has begun, photos. Here are some of the projects ongoing and in the works:
—S.R. 44 is being resurfaced between C.R. 486 and Lopp Point. This is the road project some people are complaining about because they think it’s finished and poorly done. It’s not finished. I’ve been through enough of these big resurfacing projects to know once they put down the first layer, it’s several weeks before the final layer. It should be completed this spring.
— S.R. 44 will be resurfaced between U.S. 41 and the Sumter County line. That’s 6.7 miles and will include a traffic signal at Gospel Island Road. Technically separate from this the state is adding a second left turn lane at 44 for southbound U.S. 41 traffic. Starting sometime this year.
— Once this section of U.S. 41 widening is complete by summer 2025, the state will start on the next 1-mile segment. By 2027, it’s expected to start widening the next half-mile to Arlington Street.
Figure U.S. 41 road construction from now until the end of the decade.
Gotta say: Those workers are KILLING it on the U.S. 41 widening. I drive through there nearly every day, and road building is actively taking place. It’s encouraging.
The new Montgomery Avenue intersection with U.S. 41 is, um, interesting. It is now opposite Zephyr Street.
The state changed the traffic pattern significantly. Before, Montgomery ended at U.S. 41 with only a Hungry Howie’s opposite it. Now, Montgomery has a four-way intersection with Zephyr, which comes into 41 at an odd angle.
And Zephyr, just an ordinary Inverness side street minding its own business, now suddenly is part of a signalized intersection. Wonder how the folks there feel about their quiet street becoming a thoroughfare.
We talk a lot here about roads. Citizens complain that county commissioners are behind the times when it comes to road planning, but the facts would dispute that.
Commissioners are regularly dropping hints to the state that the next big road project — widening C.R. 491 between Pine Ridge Boulevard and U.S. 41 in the Central Ridge, will cost in excess of $100 million and they’d like the state to pony up half.
So far, the state has offered polite smiles and little more. No one has really had that discussion yet, but commissioners are starting to get the word out.
No real point today. Just the observation that we have plenty of state road work taking place in Citrus County.
Progress, baby. Progress.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.