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The Villages
Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Commissioner declares widening Morse Boulevard a dead issue

A project to widen Morse Boulevard between County Road 466 and El Camino Real would require additional storm water drainage permits and possibly a redesign of the entire drainage system, according to a memo from Sumter County Public Works Director Richard Baier.

The permits and redesign are the latest obstacles to a boulevard widening project, which is viewed by area residents as a solution to traffic congestion and safety issues.

Widening the road would require other drainage solutions that the ditches on each side that would be eliminated by additional traffic lanes.

Baier said in the memo that he met earlier this month with officials of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which oversees drainage systems, about the widening plan.

The officials said that widening, “which would contribute additional storm water runoff would in turn necessitate the remodeling and potential redesign of the affected storm water basin or sub-basin drainage systems,” according to the memo.

County officials have cited the high cost of right-of-way acquisition as another obstacle to a widening project.

After meeting earlier this month with Villages officials Janet Tutt and Sam Wartinbee, County Administrator Bradley Arnold said it was determined that a widening project also would have an adverse impact on wetlands at the southern end of the road and could endanger animals who live there.

Arnold and other county officials decided to investigate the feasibility of widening the road after about 175 area residents confronted commissioners at an April meeting about safety issues.

Villager Sherrie Hyer presented a petition of more than 1,000 signatures calling for safety improvements. Hyer said she began the petition drive after a Jan. 13 accident killed her neighbor, Francis Hughes, 85, whose golf cart was struck by a van.

A $1-million Morse Boulevard redesign project in 2009 widened golf cart lanes as well as adding a traffic light and left turn lanes.

Arnold told commissioners at their meeting Tuesday night that stepped-up law enforcement and better signage to be installed this fall should enhance safety.

Commissioner Doug Gilpin
Commissioner Doug Gilpin

Commission Chairman Don Hahnfeldt said a crackdown on speeders during the past two months has resulted in 62 citations, including golf carts going up to 30 mph and cars up to 64 mph. The speed limit is 30 mph for motor vehicles and unlicensed golf carts are restricted from traveling 20 mph or more on public roads.

After hearing the drainage report, Commissioner Doug Gilpin said he’s convinced that widening the road is a dead issue.

“There should be no further work on redesigning Morse Boulevard,” he said. “It’s simply a matter of (vehicle operators) obeying the law.”


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