DADE CITY — Six months after Edward Young died from injuries he sustained in a wreck at U.S. 98 and U.S. 301, his family and neighbors this week celebrated the state's decision to install a traffic signal at the intersection.
"We're thrilled,'' said Don Reno, who was Young's neighbor in the Southfork Mobile Home Park. "People in Dade City said they would never put a light there, even though everybody seemed to agree it was needed. This will save lives. Unfortunately it comes too late for Ed.''
Young, 81, died a month after his 2011 Ford Fiesta collided with another vehicle as he tried to turn south onto U.S. 301 toward Zephyrhills. His wife Sally, 78, was seriously injured and now lives in a nursing home. Young was charged with failure to stop at the intersection. The other driver was treated for minor injuries.
After the accident, residents at several mobile home parks in the area met to express their concerns about the intersection.
More than 1,000 homes sit within a mile of it, said Dot Cady, president of the Southfork Homeowners Association, who had lobbied for a light since 2005. She wrote letters to politicians who represent the area, begging them for help.
This week, the state Department of Transportation notified her that recent studies confirmed a signal is warranted and will be installed.
"We will work to get the temporary signal (wood poles) installed as quickly as possible, before the end of the year, if not sooner,'' wrote Kris Carson, spokeswoman for the DOT office in Tampa.
Carson noted a more permanent signal with steel strain poles will be installed at the intersection after a resurfacing project is completed. That project on U.S. 98 and U.S. 301 will start in early 2015 and "change the geometry of the intersection,'' she said.
DOT inspectors counted traffic movements at the intersection on Feb. 19 and March 11. They found between 55 and 81 vehicles per hour made left turns, the maneuver that Young had attempted and the one drawing the most complaints.
"This volume meets the minimum volume criteria of 53 vehicles per hour for eight hours of an average day,'' Carson wrote. That criteria is established by the Federal Highway Administration.
The department also evaluated crash data from January 2009 through December 2012. It concluded that 2.5 crashes per year would be "susceptible to correction by a traffic signal.''
"Due to the high speed on U.S. 301 at this intersection,'' the report said, "crashes tend to be severe.''