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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Sumter County endorses plan for bolstering I-75’s ability to handle peak traffic

The state will seek a federal grant to harden the road shoulder of Interstate 75 north of the Florida Turnpike to provide additional capacity during peak traffic periods.

Sumter County Administrator Bradley Arnold endorsed the plan in a letter earlier this month to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

“The proposed project segment faces recurring and non-recurring congestion from high volumes of passenger and truck traffic during peak hours and numerous incidents (throughout) the year,” Arnold wrote. “The proposed project is consistent with our recommendation to maximize the use of existing infrastructure before considering alternative capacity routes.”

The Fastlane grant would provide money for the Freight Mobility Improvement Project to harden the inside shoulder from the Florida Turnpike to County Highway 484, several miles north of the Wildwood exit. The project also involves dynamic message signs, harmonizing speed and modifying the pavement markings and guardrail.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fastlane program will provide $800 million in grants for 18 projects.

Arnold wrote that the additional lane will improve freight movement and reduce travel time while enhancing safety and reliability.

More improvements on I-75 may come as an outgrowth of the state I-75 Relief Task Force, which issued a report earlier this year. The task force studied transportation issues and alternatives between Tampa and Jacksonville.

I-75 issues also were discussed recently at a meeting of the North I-75 Master Plan Project in Ocala.

Officials are looking at future interchanges, new road connectors, U.S. 301 improvements and transportation for Monarch Ranch, a large industrial park planned along the interstate near Coleman.

When an accident occurs on I-75, Marion County officials recommended that traffic should not be diverted to U.S. 301 in Ocala due to heavy congestion, but that SW 60th Avenue between U.S. 27 and State Road 200 should be used instead.

They also suggested that no Ocala roads be widened beyond six lanes and that the downtown should be viewed as a destination rather than a through route.

Someone suggested that Uber taxi rides be incorporated into the transportation plan, but FDOT has no policy on Uber or similar services.

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