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The Villages
Sunday, November 27, 2022

Local officials to meet with Florida Turnpike executives amid unhappiness over extension

Local officials will meet soon with Florida Turnpike executives to push back against three suggested routes for a turnpike extension that would pass through the historic Royal community in Wildwood.

Royal residents came out in force to oppose the possible routes at recent meetings of the Wildwood City Commission and the Sumter County Board of Commissioners.

In a letter to a turnpike officials, County Administrator Bradley Arnold and City Manager Jason McHugh wrote that the route should be south of State Route 44 and west of Interstate 75 to protect Royal and businesses at the I-75 and SR 44 intersection.

Arnold said he and McHugh will meet soon with turnpike officials and, at a workshop meeting Tuesday night, he suggested another alternative.

He said the current turnpike connection with I-75 could remain in place with traffic directed north on the expanded interstate until the area of County Road 466, where the turnpike extension would branch westward. This option would require widening the turnpike to eight lanes, which is under study.

Another alternative, suggested by Arnold and McHugh in the letter, would be to extend the turnpike westward from its current endpoint, then head north along County Road 470, west of I-75. That alternative could require a long bridge across a wetland and preservation area.

Unlike other road projects, the turnpike extension is mandated by state law to be completed by 2030.

Royal is an African American community on Wildwood’s west side that dates back to just after the Civil War when former slaves were given plots of land there. Some of their descendants still live on that land.

Nearly 50 years ago, construction of I-75 divided the historic Royal community and residents said they don’t want it to happen again with a turnpike extension.

They called for a no-build option, which will be considered during a later phase of the approval process called Planning, Development and Engineering (PD&E), expected to begin later this year.

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