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County staff thinks road doesn't need center line

Residents say Hampshire Street is dangerous, and they want county government to do something about it. Specifically, they want workers to paint a center line that, residents hope, would inspire drivers to slow down and stay on their side of the road.

But county staff, citing technical concerns, has recommended that government leaders reject the request.

"Several of us have been run off the hilly road (Hampshire) by cars, lawn maintenance workers, electrical linesman going to install lines, and even a dump truck," reads a petition addressed to Sheriff Jeff Dawsy.

"Time is running out before we have a major accident or death on this street."

More than 150 people, almost all of them Citrus Hills residents who regularly drive Hampshire, signed the petition, which Dawsy received warmly.

"I agree with you totally and know firsthand the dangers that this thoroughfare poses," he wrote to the petition's author, Joyce Simek of Citrus Hills.

However, the sheriff noted that his staff handles traffic enforcement and has no control over design elements such as road striping.

Dawsy forwarded the request to the county's engineering division, which studied Hampshire. It has no center or edge striping _ typical for Citrus Hills roads _ and the speed limit is 30 mph.

Hampshire is about 1 mile long _ stretching between Croft Avenue and Allegrie Drive _ and has "several vertical curves that reduce sight distance," engineering director Ken Cheek wrote in a memo.

"While striping might help to alleviate the safety issue to some degree, it is also likely that the problem is significantly increased due to excessive speeds," Cheek wrote.

"It is our opinion that the roadway design is typical for residential roadways and should not pose a safety issue, so long as the posted speed is observed. Centerline striping is typically not provided for this type of roadway," Cheek wrote.

The county's public works director, Ken Frink, concurred with that recommendation. If government leaders wanted to press ahead, he said, the striping would cost $3,100.

If that doesn't happen, Simek said, she's not certain what her next move will be.

IT'S DONE: People who drive State Road 44 E already know, but the Department of Transportation has made it official: The widening of the highway is complete.

Crews started work in August 2002, widening SR 44 between U.S. 41 and Gospel Island Road. The second phase _ widening the highway between Gospel Island and the Withlacoochee River _ started later.

Construction on the first phase cost $4.7-million. It officially was declared complete Dec. 8. Construction costs for the second phase amounted to $7.9-million. The state officially declared it complete Dec. 9. The costs do not include engineering, land acquisition or other costs.

LET THERE BE LIGHT: According to a memo from the county's public works department, crews soon will be installing new street lighting at County Road 486 and County Road 491 in Lecanto. Construction is scheduled to begin by Jan. 20 or so.

LET THERE BE MORE LIGHT: Public works also has put together a list of other intersections that would benefit from additional lighting. The County Commission has put aside money to pay for such lighting, and Assistant County Administrator Ken Saunders has been asked to review the list.

Public works' road maintenance division originally compiled the list, taking into account the number of accidents _ and, more specifically, nighttime accidents _ that have happened at the intersections in the past year.

For example, U.S. 19 and West Ozello Trail and U.S. 19 and County Road 488 have had five night accidents each in the past year.

Here's the list:

West Citrus

U.S. 19 and Ozello Trail

U.S. 19 and County Road 488

U.S. 19 and Cypress Boulevard (Sugarmill Woods)

Venable Street and Dunkenfield Avenue

Venable and Seven Rivers Drive

U.S. 19 and Suffolk Terrace

CR 488 and County Road 495

East and Central Citrus

County Road 486 and Pine Ridge Boulevard

County Road 491 and State Road 200

CR 491 and Noble Street

SR 200 and County Road 39

U.S. 41 and CR 39

County Road 581 and County Road 480

CR 581 and Anna Jo Drive

U.S. 41 and CR 488

County Road 48 and Istachatta Road