ARCADIA — A future that requires making U-turns on Kings Highway was one of the big concerns of residents and businesses located along a 2.5-mile stretch where the state has plans for widening.
More than 50 people showed up at the Turner Agri-Civic Center Thursday night outside Arcadia for an openhouse and public comment session held by the Florida Department of Transportation.
No one spoke against the $37.7 million project, which has been in the planning phases since 2013.
DeSoto County Commission chair Judy Schaefer said the commission supports the state’s proposal to widen the section of highway at the Charlotte County border from two lanes to four lanes.
“The traffic flow is so heavy, and there’s a lot of accidents,” Schaefer told the Sun.
The plan involves more than two extra lanes, however. The project will add median space between the two sides of the highway, ranging from 19.5 to 40 feet. That median will mean drivers cannot cross over to the other side whenever they want, but must wait for an official break in the road.
Business owners that include Steve Gant are concerned that delivery truckers will have a hard time negotiating the turns. He asked for a center turning lane instead of a median strip in the area where businesses are located.
FDOT usually steers clear of that kind of shared turning lane, FDOT spokesman Zachary Burch said, but that doesn’t mean the state won’t consider it in this case.
“We always try to accommodate people,” he said. “This is the reason we have these meetings.”
Susan Turner is a business owner along the route, and talked at length with a consulting engineer about the problem of crossing over a median.
“I know that they worked really hard, but I don’t like the plan,” she said. She added, however, “We want safety, so whatever they decide, they said they designed it for safety.”
Anne Avenue resident John Lewis said the sooner the better for this project.
“They’re going to have to do something, because there’s 1,000 homes going in,” he said of a development called The Sonoma Preserve. “I think there’s going to be a lot of accidents.”
Even though the project has been in the planning phases for a long time, actual construction is not yet on any calendar. The full engineering design is scheduled for 2024. The design being reviewed Thursday was only preliminary.
The plan also includes a multi-use bike lane on one side and a sidewalk on the other. Drainage would be extensive, reducing problems residents have now with flooding. In a short middle section, the plan is to keep the current country road next to the new four-lane divided highway. This allows many property owners to keep their driveway access.
And the state may include a sound barrier wall in one section.