SUN CITY CENTER — County employees expect to reveal designs for a golf cart path by the end of the month that would connect Del Webb Boulevard with U.S. 301 and allow residents to drive their golf carts to the Wal-Mart Supercenter.
A plan for a golf cart path across U.S. 301 near State Road 674 has been discussed since the store opened more than two years ago. Several thousand residents signed petitions in favor of the idea. Many of them now drive their carts to Publix and want the option to cross the highway to shop at Wal-Mart.
But the idea for a golf cart path across U.S. 301 remained bogged down amid questions about its legality and safety near such a busy intersection that includes truck traffic.
The design in the works follows recent legal approval by the state Department of Transportation for a crossing north of that intersection – at a traffic light at U.S. 301 and Cape Stone Avenue.
Local and state officials met the past two months with Ed Barnes, president of Sun City Center's community association, to sort through the details. All parties considered a crossing at Cape Stone Avenue to be safe, Barnes said.
On the east side of U.S. 301, the path would connect to Cape Stone Avenue and then onto Wal-Mart's property. But remaining questions deal with the connection on the west side of U.S. 301.
The golf cart path needs to be constructed across private, undeveloped land and built over to East Del Webb Boulevard inside the Sun City Center community. Developer Rick Whitcomb, who plans to build medical offices on the property years from now, is working with the group to grant an easement for the project.
Barnes and the other officials are still wrestling with the questions about additional safety signs needed on U.S. 301 and who is going to pay for the golf cart path.
He added that he hoped the path would be ready for construction within six months.
Michael McCarthy, division director of traffic services for the county public works department, said his staff is working on initial design plans and cost estimates to be ready for another meeting, possibly by the end of July.
The path, expected to run 1,200 to 1,500 feet across the Whitcomb property, is estimated to cost under $100,000, McCarthy said.
Despite officials' confidence in the safety of the proposed project, at least one person still thinks it's a bad idea: sheriff's community resource Deputy Rob Thornton.
"You have to understand, that road is going to be a six-lane major highway," Thornton said about future plans for U.S. 301 and the traffic it will carry.
Unlike State Road 674, which has several traffic lights slowing vehicles between its legally designated golf cart crossings, U.S. 301 has no traffic light to slow speeding trucks motoring south from Big Bend Road.
"I'm a cop, not a fortune teller. All I can tell you is it's just not a good idea," Thornton said. "I guess I'll be posted out there with a bucket and a mop."
Saundra Amrhein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813)661-2441.