BROOKSVILLE — The Brooksville City Council gave its blessing Monday night to a community revitalization group's effort to rid downtown of two one-way highways that the group says impede business and make the city less desirable to pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
The unanimous support of a resolution backing the nonprofit Brooksville Vision Foundation's desire to return stretches of U.S. 41 (Broad Street) and U.S. 98 (Jefferson Street) to two-way traffic is the first step in bringing the matter before the state Department Of Transportation, said the organization's president, Cliff Manuel.
"We have a plan that we think will work for everyone, and now may be the right time to introduce it to the DOT," Manuel said.
Manuel, president of Coastal Engineering Associates, said the proposal includes two new bypass routes that would move heavy commercial vehicle traffic around the city and away from the downtown business core.
The redirection of U.S. 98 has two possibilities that would take traffic along the State Road 50 bypass on the city's south side. One plan calls taking the traffic off the bypass at Broad Street and sending it north to Ponce de Leon Boulevard. The second possibility includes taking traffic all the way to Cobb Road, around the city's west side.
Rerouting U.S. 41 traffic out of downtown would require the construction of a half-mile stretch of road on what is currently vacant public land on the east side of Brooksville; it would provide a link, using Emerson Road, stretching from the SR 50 bypass to the existing U.S. 41 near Mondon Hill Road on the north side of the city.
Manuel said that perhaps the greatest obstacle to any such proposal would be funding. However, as the DOT looks toward the state's long-range transportation needs, such a plan might be favored, especially if government entities, business owners and the public are supportive.
"That's why we feel the need to start acting now," he said. "The sooner they know our wishes, the better."
The conversion of the two streets to their current one-way status occurred in March 1993, after a DOT study that said doing so was the best way to move commerce and goods through the city. However, many have criticized the plan as shortsighted, in that it all but snuffed out a revival of downtown that had started to gain momentum.
"It certainly has made it more difficult for a new business to gain a foothold," council member Lara Bradburn said. "We've done a lot of things in the city to encourage foot traffic, but having those roads like they are is defeating."
Manuel said that he will present his proposal to the Hernando County Commission on Dec. 17 in the hope of approval, and intends to bring the matter before the county's Metropolitan Planning Organization in January.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.