Thursday, June 21, 2018
News Roundup

As wrecks increase, Hernando looks at traffic trouble spots

BROOKSVILLE — With the number of vehicle crashes creeping up in recent years, Hernando County traffic planners have been examining what can be done to improve the safety and functionality of roadways.

This week, a congestion management plan was approved for the coming year. It targets trouble spots, including the intersection of Cortez and Mariner boulevards, intersections with traffic signals along U.S. 41 and the interchange of Cortez and Interstate 75.

William Roll of county transportation planning consultant Tindale-Oliver & Associates praised the county for keeping 98 percent of its roads at a grade of C or above, which is considered an acceptable level of service.

But other roads need attention, Roll told the county's Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is composed of the five county commissioners and a representative from the Brooksville City Council.

Traffic crashes in the county rose from 1,529 in 2009 to 1,645 in 2010 and 1,907 in 2011.

In the examination of four categories of crashes, Roll said, it was incidents involving aggressive driving and those involving the most vulnerable users on the road — pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists — that contributed most to the rise.

The aggressive-driver crashes are the result of human behavior and not issues the county can address with roadway improvements, Roll noted.

Wayne Dukes, chairman of the MPO, suggested that the older age of drivers in Hernando County might also be a contributor to the rise in wrecks.

The current widening project on Cortez is not going to make matters any better, said MPO member Diane Rowden.

"Getting into Starbucks is horrible,'' she said.

Accidents involving bicycles can also be the fault of the bicyclists, added member Nick Nicholson. He recounted a recent incident in which a rider on a bike with no lights was wearing dark clothing after dark; Nicholson said he nearly struck the bicyclist.

Roll said Hernando County's crash numbers are not as high as some in other counties in the area, and, if the problems persist, there are ways to address them. As an author of Hillsborough's bike safety action plan, Roll said that one solution there was the purchase of bike lighting kits because a large percentage of the county's traffic fatalities occurred at night when bike riders had no lights on their bicycles.

The consultant and county planners looked at the issues at the busy Cortez and Mariner intersection with an eye toward reconfiguring the lanes and considering whether the county would need to buy more right of way. Ultimately, they took a step back to see the bigger picture, Roll said.

They recommended that a broader study be done that could stretch down Mariner to Landover Boulevard and also include multiple intersections on Cortez.

"This is one of your major commercial nodes, and this needs to be more than just a look at the intersection. It needs to be a more comprehensive approach,'' Roll said.

MPO member Lara Bradburn suggested that, while the consultant was taking a larger look at traffic circulation in that area, the firm might consider improvements that would make it safer for bicyclists, too. She predicted that, with the sluggish economy, more people will continue to travel by bicycle to local businesses.

Rowden suggested that the study also look at the frontage road system — specifically how it connects High Point to the nearby commercial area.

Roll said those issues would all be considered.

In addition to the Mariner and Cortez intersection, Roll said, his firm had identified Hexam, Mondon Hill and Lake Lindsey roads as locations where there were "run off the road'' accidents and that fatalities had been reported on each of those roads.

He made no recommendations for improvements there because he said studies are "already in the pipeline.''

A study on configuring the interchange at I-75 and Cortez is also under way, Roll said, as part of the plan to widen the interstate to six lanes through Hernando County.

Suggestions to the Hernando school district have already been made to improve congestion and backup onto Northcliffe Boulevard at Explorer K-8 School, and the county is also working on additional solutions there, he said.

Roll also suggested that four intersections along U.S. 41 in Brooksville needed signs announcing that a signal was coming up: at Powell Road, Wiscon Road, State Road 50 and Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard.

"With our aging population, this is very helpful in helping them make decisions in terms of their approach,'' Roll said.

Bradburn pointed out that three of the four intersections already had state-approved signs warning motorists of the city's red-light cameras.

As more specific plans are developed for various projects, they will come back before the MPO for approval.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

Comments

Updated: 26 minutes ago
Plant City’s champion Al Berry, whose name shouted his passion, dead at 83

Plant City’s champion Al Berry, whose name shouted his passion, dead at 83

His name was Berry and berry was his passion — the strawberry that put his beloved Plant City on the map.Alfred "Al" Berry was born with the name, but he took on his role as chief promoter of Plant City through his four decades of work with the commu...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Column: How the U.S. cornered the market for skilled immigrants

Column: How the U.S. cornered the market for skilled immigrants

Countries are constantly competing for the most talented workers and, according to the best available immigration statistics, the United States has been winning.The United States is home to just 4.4 percent of the world’s population, but in 2010, it ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For once, scientists found good news about West Antarctica

For once, scientists found good news about West Antarctica

At least since 2014, the news has been dire: The West Antarctic ice sheet is losing ice, and its retreat may be unstoppable. It may be only a matter of time (granted, maybe a very long time) before it adds as much as 10 feet to global sea-level rise....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputies: Zephyrhills bank robbed, suspect flees on bicycle

Deputies: Zephyrhills bank robbed, suspect flees on bicycle

A Suntrust Bank in Zephyrhills was robbed early Thursday afternoon, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.At about 12:50 p.m., deputies said, the man walked into the bank at 34511 State Road 54 and presented a note demanding money, though he...
Updated: 1 hour ago
First lady’s ‘I don’t care’ jacket causes a stir

First lady’s ‘I don’t care’ jacket causes a stir

McALLEN, Texas (AP) — First lady Melania Trump boarded a flight to a facility housing migrant children separated from their parents wearing a jacket that read "I really don’t care, do u?"The green hooded spring military jacket has the words written g...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Saboteur or whistleblower? Battle between Elon Musk and former Tesla employee turns ugly, exposing internal rancor

Saboteur or whistleblower? Battle between Elon Musk and former Tesla employee turns ugly, exposing internal rancor

Hours after Tesla had sued its former employee on charges he had stolen company secrets, and days after chief Elon Musk had called him a saboteur, the Silicon Valley automaker made a startling claim. The company had received a call from a friend of t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Islanders hire Barry Trotz as coach fresh off winning Stanley Cup

Islanders hire Barry Trotz as coach fresh off winning Stanley Cup

DALLAS — The New York Islanders have hired Barry Trotz as their new head coach. President of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello announced the move Thursday at the NHL draft, two weeks after Trotz won the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals and thr...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

TAMPA — Two of the city’s hottest developers — the companies behind Ulele and the Armature Works — are heading to court over control of an old city building that sits between the hit eateries. Both want to redevelop the city&...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Man found dead in Hillsborough Bay had a big fan in the cat world

Man found dead in Hillsborough Bay had a big fan in the cat world

TAMPA — To his friends and neighbors at Tampa Baptist Manor, Norman Lester Porterfield was the man who fed and spoiled Lucky, the scruffy stray calico cat in the back yard. But the Tampa Police Department says he’s also the man they found dead in Hil...
Updated: 2 hours ago