Outfitted in red shirts, a couple dozen Morse Boulevard area residents asked Sumter County commissioners Tuesday night to improve safety for golf carts and other vehicles on the road.
The worst bottleneck is at the Morse Gate north of County Road 466, where southbound golf carts must turn left across traffic in both directions to reach the cart path. At other Villages intersections, tunnels provide a safe way for golf carts to cross them.
Residents presented a petition signed by 1,100 people asking for improvements.
But County Administrator Bradley Arnold said traffic has not increased over the past seven years and most accidents involved operator error, not the roadway design.
Although the county has upgraded traffic signals and widened the multi-modal lanes, resident Brad Burton said those efforts have fallen short.
“Unfortunately, previous methods have proven inadequate,” said Burton, who presented the petition. “It is imperative that the board address the need for road improvements and traffic control.”
Resident James Vaccaro said the solution is an off-road cart path, which would have to be done by The Villages.
Widening the road or creating an off-road path could damage wildlife and require right-of-way acquisition from homeowners along the road.
Of 108 crashes since 2017, 38 involved golf carts, according to data compiled by county engineer and public works director Deborah Snyder. Those crashes involved 47 injuries and three fatalities. The fatalities did not involve golf carts.
Many of those crashes involved distracted drivers or were at the intersections with CR 466 or U.S. Hwy. 27/441.
Arnold said annual March traffic counts show no significant increase over the past seven years. He said there were 31,000 daily trips in 2015, 30,000 in 2021 and 27,000 this year.
“It’s a very safe road,” he said.
But residents disputed that assessment.
Carolyn Briggs said her husband was injured in a golf cart accident seven years ago while on his way to get a haircut.
“He was hit by an oncoming SUV,” she said. “He spent three months in the hospital and two of them unconscious. Please, please, come up with a way to save other people.”
Commissioner Garry Breeden said if the multi-modal paths on the roadway are a safety problem, maybe the county should remove them. Another solution, he said, would be tearing down homes to acquire right-of-way to widen the road, which would not be feasible.