Besides the cost of right-of-way acquisition, widening Morse Boulevard between County Road 466 and El Camino Real also could have serious environmental impacts, according to Sumter County Administrator Bradley Arnold.
Arnold told commissioners Tuesday night that he met earlier in the day with Villages officials Janet Tutt and Sam Wartinbee to discuss widening the 2.7-mile stretch of roadway as a potential solution to safety concerns raised last month by area residents.
He said the widening project would have an adverse impact on wetlands at the southern end of the road and could endanger animals who live there. The project also would require an alternative drainage solution to the ditches on the sides of the current roadway.
“There is no sound solution to even anticipate a study for (roadway) redesign,” Arnold said, adding that creating another multi-modal path is not under the county’s jurisdiction.
He said a wider road of two lanes in each direction would mean that traffic could travel at higher speeds, which actually could decrease safety.
Arnold said the last Morse Boulevard redesign completed in 2009 enhanced safety. The $1-million upgrade included another traffic signal, widened golf cart lanes and left turn lanes.
He said money is allocated in next year’s budget to improve roadway signage and the project could begin in the Morse Boulevard area.
“The rest of the issues are more perception than reality,” he said.
Commission chairman Don Hahnfeldt said traffic enforcement on Morse was stepped up after last month’s meeting and a number of speeders were nabbed, including three golf cart operators.
“The most significant thing we can do is keep the issue in public awareness,” he said.
At a meeting last month, a group of nearly 175 area residents confronted commissioners about improving safety on the boulevard. They joined villager Sherri Hyer, who presented the commission with a petition of more than 1,000 signatures calling for safety improvements.
Hyer said she was motivated to begin the petition drive by a Jan. 13 accident that killed her neighbor, Francis Hughes, 85, whose golf cart was struck by a van.