Despite opposition by some local officials, the Florida Department of Transportation will install a roundabout at U.S. 301 and County Road 472 within six years.
In an Oct. 2 letter to Sumter County Public Works Director Richard Baier, an FDOT engineer said the agency has determined that a roundabout would be a better option than traffic lights at that intersection, which is south of County Road 466 and west of The Villages.
“We conducted both a signal warrant analysis and a roundabout feasibility study,” stated the letter from district traffic operations engineer Richard Morrow. “We found that either a roundabout or a traffic signal could be a solution for this intersection. Our feasibility study showed that for a 20-year projection, the benefits of a roundabout will significantly outweigh those of a traffic signal.”
The study was prompted by a series of accidents at the intersection.
“We’re interested in safety,” said Sumter County Administrator Bradley Arnold, who told the county commission about the letter on Tuesday night. “We are thankful that FDOT continued to conduct traffic warrant studies. There are strong chances that it could occur sometime before 2021.”
Arnold said county officials were consulted about the intersection.
“We had the opportunity to provide input,” he said. “They took our input into consideration and are moving forward with a roundabout.”
Commissioner Doug Gilpin said a roundabout was not the county’s first choice, but he will support the idea.
Opinions are stronger in Wildwood, where Mayor Ed Wolf suggested several months ago that FDOT officials should have been given urine tests to determine whether they were on drugs when they came up with the roundabout idea for U.S. 301. He also said he envisions toppled semi-trucks as they bear down on the roundabout at high speed.
The highway also sometimes is used as an alternate for Interstate 75 with heavy traffic.
Wolf said this week that he hopes FDOT will consider the views of Wildwood officials and residents, but it seems unlikely given the strong support for a roundabout in the Oct. 2 letter. The intersection is within the city limits, but the roads are maintained by the state and county.
Roundabouts are part of The Villages lifestyle, but at 20 mph on less trafficked roads. FDOT plans to install roundabouts on several highways across the state.
When construction begins, FDOT also will install medians and prohibit left turns from CR 472 to U.S. 301 until the roundabout is finished. No right-of-way acquisition is expected for the project.
“The department is committed to improving safety,” the FDOT letter stated. “Our scoping process will begin immediately and our initial projection for funding construction of this roundabout is fiscal year 2020-21.”
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