SEBRING — Monday morning found county and contracted work crews making changes on Sebring Parkway.
If you didn’t encounter them Monday, Traffic Operations Supervisor Eddie Cardona had eight employees and a crew from Oglesby Construction at 8:15 a.m. Monday, setting up barrels and laying down temporary stripes — all to help redirect motorists off Sebring Parkway onto Lakeview Drive.
Detours will stay in place until after Highlands County Road & Bridge crews finish turning the 90-degree turn into a two-lane, three-spoke roundabout connecting Parkway Phase 1 to Phase 3, said County Engineer Clinton Howerton Jr.
Both Howerton and Cardona warn motorists this is a long road closure.
Howerton said work on the roundabout should take three or four months. Commuters will need to allow more time, go slower and drive with a lot of patience, he said.
That was especially true Monday morning. As eastbound lanes closed at Ben Eastman Road, cars had to enter Lakeview Drive just west of a one-lane work zone with private contractors trimming trees back from Duke Energy power lines.
Cardona said, before the county built the Parkway, its 8,000 daily drivers used to ride on Lakeview Drive.
He said his crews have done little things motorists may not notice to make things less confusing for them.
Oglesby Construction put in directional arrows and road stripes to redirect Parkway traffic.
Eastbound/inbound traffic heading toward downtown will turn right onto Ben Eastman Road to enter Lakeview Drive.
From there, they may turn left, go to Hiawatha Avenue and turn left toward Home Avenue to get back on the Parkway.
Northbound/outbound traffic, heading away from downtown Sebring, will turn left at Home Avenue toward Lakeview Drive to head to Ben Eastman Road or the traffic signal at Scenic Highway.
Northbound traffic will turn right at Home Avenue toward State Road 17. Those on Home Avenue going straight across the Parkway can do that, too.
Cardona said his crews have installed larger speed limit signs on the affected section of Lakeview Drive, to remind motorists to slow down on the residential street.
Monday saw power company contract crews trimming trees back from power lines and numerous teenagers waiting at school bus stops.
Florida Department of Transportation, District 1, has funded almost a third of Parkway Phase 3. Brian Rick, public information officer for FDOT District 1, wanted to remind motorists the roundabout build is a “short-term pain, long-term gain.”
Once it’s done, the Parkway will have a junction with a continuous flow of traffic, reduced risks with “fender-benders” instead of high-speed side-impacts and will function in any weather and after storm damage without electricity, or even signs.
Rick, who worked for FDOT in South Florida for 13 years, said he hated roundabouts, but after seeing how they work, became an advocate.
“Anybody that goes through them, give them a chance,” said Rick, noting people can learn them easily. “We do adapt well as human beings.”