Taking a drive along Croft Avenue on Monday brought back a lot of memories.
Mostly of government inefficiency and lack of vision.
In the conversation about roads, Croft seems to get lost. It’s the land that time forgot. Croft is two lanes in need of four lanes 20 years ago.
Think of Croft as the local road version of U.S. 41 north of Inverness. Lots of talk, little action.
Our current county commission has a chance to do something about that.
Today’s commission meeting agenda includes a presentation on the five-year capital improvement program. I wrote a little about that last week.
What’s interesting is the presentation includes a second document that takes a very broad look at projects up to 10 years out.
First off, it's brilliant to look beyond five years. This has County Administrator Steve Howard’s fingerprints all over it. I know we haven’t said much about Howard, but strategic planning and government efficiency are his staples; hopefully, we’ll see county commissioners feed off it. That’s how this should work.
Far as I can tell, these 10-year projects haven't been publicly vetted yet so if you see something that increases your heart rate just remember this is only a starting point for conversation.
So let’s talk about Croft.
I’m going on memory here, so maybe a loyal Just Wright Citrus reader like former Commissioner Vicki Phillips will straighten me out, but Croft’s problems started decades ago when the county built Forest Ridge Boulevard.
At the time, there was no Terra Vista. Just acres of undeveloped Citrus Hills. There was much discussion of the county buying the right of way to extend Forest Ridge south to S.R. 44.
For reasons I can’t recall, the county said no. And it’s been regretting that decision ever since.
Can you imagine today if we had a straight shot to the Central Ridge off S.R. 44 without having to navigate U.S. 41, C.R. 491 or C.R. 486?
A few things happened because of that decision. For one, the county panicked when it couldn’t widen C.R. 491 fast enough and came up with the atrocious Ottawa-Otis Avenue connector, which to this day reigns as the biggest boondoggle I’ve seen foisted upon the citizens of Citrus County.
The Ottawa connector made no sense then and today simply serves as a reminder of what happens without vision. We can never have another Ottawa.
The second thing is Croft became the de facto connector between 44 and 486, except it does so much more.
I hadn’t been on Croft much lately so I took a good look on Monday. Croft is a mix of businesses, houses and farmland. Some side roads feed into Citrus Hills; others are private lime rock streets that disappear into the woods.
It’s nice and wide open on the north end with Hernando Elementary School; the south end at S.R. 44 is a tight commercial intersection that jams up with cars pretty quickly.
The county didn’t ignore Croft. In fact, a former county commission made the decision not to pursue widening Croft; not long after a bank showed up on the corner at S.R. 44 and suddenly the right-of-way costs went through the roof.
And that’s the last time anyone talked seriously about widening Croft.
The county estimates widening Croft between S.R. 44 and Hayes Street, where it splits into four lanes near Hernando Elementary School, to cost $81 million total — construction, design, right of way, the whole nine yards.
That’s a ton of dough we don’t have. However, the report states IF the county were to somehow come up with funding, the road could be widened in five years.
I don’t know if that’s doable but I’ll say this: Good on Howard and his team for bringing it up.
It’s time to bring Croft out of the slow lane.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.