Let’s start Thursday with a question:
Been on U.S. 41 between Inverness and Hernando lately? Or even U.S. 41/S.R. 44 through the heart of Inverness?
I was out there Wednesday. It was crazy. Middle of the afternoon, middle of the work week, and the traffic backups through town and northward were the kind you see after college football games.
Unrelated to traffic, I wanted to get a photo of C.R. 39 just off S.R. 200, so figured I’d take a little jaunt.
Now. I’m not naïve about the traffic through Inverness. And it’s gone from irritating to Godzilla proportions in just a few months.
But I wasn't prepared for Wednesday. Gridlock through the commercial district with no letup all the way to Hernando.
I ditched the C.R. 39 trip but wanted to see how bad this traffic really was.
The journalist in me kept looking for places to pull over to take photos of the long line of cars and trucks inching along U.S. 41. Then I remembered I stopped doing such foolish things 20 years ago and instead opted for the windshield cam which, now that I’m looking at the photos, still needs work.
I made it through Hernando and decided, what the heck, maybe I’ll mosey up S.R. 200 after all to see that speck of C.R. 39. I mean, how bad can the return traffic be at 4 p.m. on a Wednesday?
Three stoplight waits, that’s how bad. I turned around and found a cut-through to U.S. 41 where I could avoid the S.R. 200 backup.
The southbound ride was fairly peaceful but not so northbound. I saw two large flatbeds, each hauling a large piece of equipment, ripping along at about 3 mph near Hernando, a line of cars behind them far as one could see.
I made it back through town and home to write this blog.
There’s a point and it’s this: Are the decision makers aware of this traffic nightmare on U.S. 41? This isn’t the U.S. 41 we all complained about 10 years ago. It’s an entirely different issue.
So, I’m just sort of wondering. Anyone paying attention to this? Are the bean counters counting the traffic beans on U.S. 41 through Inverness and Hernando? The politicians — are they aware that a problem they’ve tried to avoid for 20 years is here NOW?
The state Department of Transportation — has anyone from that agency with an impressive title come out to Citrus County and witnessed what I witnessed Wednesday?
This is a state road and the state’s responsibility.
Who’s minding the U.S. 41 store?
I bring this up because we’ve been complaining about U.S. 41 for decades. The state has put off and put off and put off widening, and now we’re in a situation where whatever they do tomorrow was needed last week.
Here’s where I make my pitch, once again, for a countywide transportation master plan. Get some experts here who can tell us the best ways to move folks around.
It’s not as easy as going to the Inverness City Council or County Commission and demanding something be done. I doubt those folks have the magic cure.
But we should acknowledge it. We should acknowledge that the issue exists, that we’re not in theory mode any more and that the east side of the county, from Inverness north, has some significant traffic challenges.
We acknowledge it, we talk about it, we seek solutions.
That was an awful experience Wednesday and it would have been worse if I really needed to be someplace. It’s not a good look for Inverness or Citrus County.
No one said this was going to be easy. Awareness and conversation travel a long way.
Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.