What’s that you say? You want to read even MORE about Citrus County roads than we covered in Tuesday’s blog?
Happy to oblige.
Commissioners received an email from the Florida Department of Transportation alerting them the U.S. 41 widening in Inverness is starting soon.
Let’s break that down a little.
When I say, “starting soon,” I’m talking about a process that’s 30-plus years in the making. Three decades ago this project was behind schedule.
This construction project that kicks things off, scheduled to begin sometime in 2023, is to widen a single mile of roadway. The first of 7 miles that will eventually get us a widened U.S. 41 all the way to Hernando.
This isn’t to beat up on FDOT, though it would have been better all those years ago for the state to just tell us the truth: “Sorry, but 41 isn’t a priority for us and won’t be until the road is a living nightmare. Meanwhile, enjoy U.S. 19 construction!”
No one in Citrus County can appreciate the glacial pace of the road department more than us east siders who have to deal with U.S. 41 every day.
I know, we have road congestion issues everywhere and it’s going to get worse before better. Labor Day has passed, Halloween is around the corner and it’ll be jam-the-roads time soon.
U.S. 41, though, holds a special place in our hearts because we could all see this traffic nightmare coming and yet it seemed to fall on deaf ears.
Of course, there’s a government reason why the state favors U.S. 19 over U.S. 41. One is designed to carry traffic from one region to another. That, of course, is U.S. 19, which is why it’s getting the six-lane treatment through Homosassa and Crystal River.
U.S. 41 is a state road but it doesn’t bring the same weight as U.S. 19. So it languishes while other priorities leap ahead. That’s the reality of road projects, as we’ve seen around here the last 20 years.
By the way, it’s not like the state is ignoring Citrus County. FDOT has plenty of projects in the hopper, mostly of the road resurfacing variety.
But this dream of a four-laned U.S. 41 between Inverness and Hernando seems…challenging. The state’s own plan has funding for only two construction projects — this one and the next one, starting in 2025, for literally nine-tenths of a mile — and that’s it.
FDOT estimates construction on the first mile between S.R. 44 and the Withlacoochee Trail bridge to take two years. The second leg goes to Live Oak Lane and would take, I’m guessing, two years. That’s four years to go two miles.
The chamber of commerce types say it’s a start and they’re correct. We’ll never get the road done if someone doesn’t put a shovel in the ground.
Some info about the U.S. 41 widening:
(A quick word about that: The city is not planning to move the park entrance off Forest Drive. The park is actually on state land, part of the state forest, which the city leases. City Manager Eric Williams said the city may consider opening a separate U.S. 41 entrance but haven’t made that decision yet.)
There you have it. U.S. 41 widening is one of those projects that some people wonder they’d ever see in their lifetimes. We’re closing in on final preparations. It’s only a matter of time.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.