Median closure frustrates
By Michael D. Bates | Hernando TodayBROOKSVILLE - Motorists heading westbound on State Road 50 got a surprise this week when they found road workers had closed the turn lane at Mariner Square, home of McDonald's, Ross Department Store, Dollar Tree and other stores.
Published: December 20, 2012
Published: December 20, 2012
That forced people to go the short distance to Mariner Boulevard, where many drivers have been observed making illegal U-turns to backtrack to Mariner Square. Others are forced to drive south on Mariner Boulevard for about a quarter mile until coming to Landover Boulevard, where a reporter saw even more people queued up to turn around.
Hernando Today saw about six illegal U-turns at Mariner Boulevard during one traffic light cycle Tuesday. On Thursday, the newspaper watched three traffic violators in a 10-minute period.
It's a situation that is dangerous and cannot continue, County Commissioner Dave Russell said when he learned of the situation.
"Something needs to happen," Russell said. "That's a bad situation there."
Even though S.R. 50 is a state highway and is managed by the Florida Department of Transportation, protocol has to take backseat to public safety, Russell said.
Transportation Services Director Brian Malmberg said Wednesday he plans to contact FDOT about the matter.
"We want to go out and set our own eyes on it and see what's happening," Malmberg said. "We need to take a look at it and see what their ultimate plans are."
FDOT spokeswoman Kris Carson said she realizes the situation is not the best and advises motorists use caution during the construction.
The Mariner Square median will remain closed indefinitely. Workers will replace the drums with a low barrier wall, and the traffic speed limit in that area has been reduced from 55 mph to 45 mph.
Carson said FDOT will continue to monitor conditions there and determine if other measures need be taken to reduce congestion.
As widening continues on that road, more median closures are planned, including one allowing access to Chick-fil-A for those traveling eastbound.
John Mitten, operator of that restaurant, said he and other tenants at Coastal Way Shopping center are worried about a drop-off in business and potential accidents from motorists forced to clog up an already congested Mariner Boulevard and the frontage road.
Mitten said his business did an informal traffic study recently on vehicles entering that eastbound left turn lane and tabulated 140-180 cars during the peak lunch and evening rush hours.
Funneling all of those extra cars onto the frontage road makes no sense, Mitten said.
And, Mitten said, FDOT plans to permanently close that lane, which means motorists traveling east and wanting to access Coastal Way will either have to enter off Mariner Boulevard or go to the stop light at Walmart and approach from the back side.
The FDOT's contractor, D.A.B. Constructors, is widening S.R. 50 between U.S. 19 and the Suncoast Parkway from a four-lane divided highway to six lanes.
That entails closing or changing some of the medians. However, FDOT has said it will monitor traffic.
The $39 million project started in October and is expected to be completed in the summer of 2015.
The Mariner Square median is only one of several to be closed during construction. Others include Oregon Jay Road, Eagle Drive, the Chick-fil-A entrance at Coastal Way, Sam's Club entrance and the lane west of Medical Center Drive.