We need action, not excuses on Morse Boulevard

Ellen Cora
Ellen Cora

Villa and Villages residents along Morse Boulevard, north of County Road 466, and the thousands of drivers on this heavily traveled thoroughfare, are TIRED of hearing only EXCUSES from our public officials about why this dangerous, obsolete Sumter County road can NOT be updated to accommodate today’s traffic volume.

We are not lobbying for a new bridge or tunnel, or a four-lane super-highway. But we do need to SEPARATE THE GOLF CART LANES FROM LARGER, FASTER, VEHICULAR TRAFFIC for driver safety and peace of mind.

“Retrospect” is a great vision to have — and we aren’t critical of the Developers’ original road plans. When CDD 1 and 2 Villages were built in the 1990s, traffic was light, even in high season. But now:

1) Hundreds of Villa and Villages residents south of the San Marino traffic light have difficulty year round exiting their communities.

2) Cars and carts making left turns off of North Morse Boulevard cause major traffic tie-ups; and some angry car drivers illegally pass on the right using the cart lanes.

3) Cart drivers take their lives in their hands approaching the CR 466 tunnel — merging into southbound Morse traffic lanes, and crossing two lanes of continuous traffic entering the gates.

4) Gate guards pace car and truck traffic entering the CR466 gates at Morse Boulevard North. They don’t pace carts crossing the traffic lanes behind them, north of the gates. In the winter, the guards focus on preventing traffic backups onto CR 466 and Morse Boulevard South.

5) The proximity of golf cart lanes to the increased volume of faster commercial traffic, especially swaying lawn-service trailers and construction trucks, makes driving on Morse Boulevard North in our “Golf Cart Community” a menace.

Our esteemed Board of County Commissioners is a shining example of excellent government – responsible development and low taxes. Chairman, Don Hahnfeldt, plus Commissioners Garry Breeden, Don Burgess, Al Butler and Doug Gilpin, have many constituents — and many priority projects on their plates — for the entire county.

They juggle short- and long-term plans and projects for county growth and Villages expansion — including widening CR 466A and a future Turnpike interchange. LET US NOT ALLOW THEM TO FORGET RESIDENTS OF OLDER VILLAGES SECTIONS, Where fewer home sales deliver lower profits.

Commissioners Burgess, Butler and Hahnfeldt are Villages residents. All five gentlemen are intelligent and respectable – BUT THEY WILL ONLY MAKE MORSE BOULEVARD NORTH SAFETY A PRIORITY IF WE REMIND THEM – LOUD AND OFTEN – OF OUR NEEDS.

Hard accident data are lacking — but residents’ quality of life is adversely affected in our “Golf Cart Community.” Drivers are unnecessarily inconvenienced, and their lives endangered daily, on this risky road.

Sgt. Siemer of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office reported 13 Villages golf cart fatalities in the past seven years — only one on Morse Boulevard North. Considering road hazards, there have been remarkably few serious accidents. This is partly because many residents avoid North Morse altogether, or restrict their driving to early morning or later evening hours.

We have a great deal of respect for resident Sherrie Hyer, who delivered over 1,000 signatures and petitioned the Board of County Commissioners regarding North Morse.

Commissioner Gilpin is right: people speed, and a few drive tipsy after Happy Hour. Some citizens take prescriptions with judgment-altering side effects and many seniors have poor eyesight, hearing and dementias. Bad driver behavior is a law-enforcement problem, but THE MAJOR ISSUE IS THE NEED TO MODERNIZE THIS ANTIQUATED ROAD.

Commissioner Hahnfeldt says Morse Boulevard North CAN be improved — with a lengthy process of permits, open-minded engineering and money. We need engineers who tell us HOW WE CAN DO IT; NOT WHY WE CAN’T.

District Manager, Janet Tutt, is correct: the process will be very complex. Central Florida watershed drainage; wildlife conservation, underground plumbing, electric, fiberoptic cables, irrigation and other infrastructure issues are involved. Past band-aid improvements have helped in places — but with continued home building, crowds going to ‘The Sharon’ and other attractions — future traffic will only increase.

It is easy for some to say, in the absence of hard accident data, the costs to bring Morse Boulevard into the 21st Century far outweigh the benefits — but I strongly disagree.

WHERE DO YOU STAND ON THIS ISSUE? Don’t leave this to “the other guy or gal.” Let your voices be heard! Let’s rally to bring Morse Boulevard North into line with the rest of The Villages roads. Contact your Commissioners and resident boards.

Don.Hahnfeldt@sumtercountyfl.gov 

Don.Burgess@sumtercountyfl.gov     

Janet.Tutt@districtgov.org

Ellen.Cora@districtgov.org 

John.Blum@districtgov.org

It is the sworn duty of our elected officials to be stewards of resident safety and quality of life. I challenge our District Manager and all our District Boards of Supervisors to bring their influence to bear – and I challenge our County Commissioners to find the most cost-effective, efficient way to GET THIS DONE.

Ellen Cora is chairman of CDD 1.