SEBRING — Local drivers may see even more improvements on U.S. 27 designed to reduce conflicts and, hopefully, decrease wrecks and fatalities.
County Commissioner Don Elwell told the Highlands News-Sun on Tuesday night that the reduced speed limit is only the beginning of what’s in store for the highway, including closing off some median crossovers and changing how certain lights operate.
Knowing that county Administrator Randy Vosburg would discuss the speed limit change during Tuesday’s morning meeting with the Board of County Commission, Elwell said he went ahead to post about the change late Monday night on Facebook.
Within 24 hours, he said, the post had garnered 500 comments.
Elwell said many of his commenters thought the change was just in deference to older drivers.
“It has nothing to do with that,” Elwell said. “It it aggressive, distracted, texting, assertive, big trucks.”
Elwell said he and other county officials had met with officials from the Florida Department of Transportation to see what other improvements they can make.
“There are other minor fixes we’re trying to do to make that road better, whether it’s restricting access across the highway or fixing the intersection at (State Road) 64 or Shop 16 Road where we fought so hard to get a light there by WalMart.”
That traffic signal in front of the Avon Park walMart Supercenter went into operation in late May.
“I’ve got restricted access coming, right there at Love Buggs and the Blue Lagoon,” Elwell said.
Sebring resident Stanley Schmidt had lobbied in 2013 for a traffic light at that location, but FDOT studies found it wasn’t warranted.
Elwell said there’s also a move to fix the Lakeview Drive intersection across from Popeye’s fried chicken — the “nasty merge” on Lakeview Drive where people go all the way across, trying to get to the left turn lane to go down Sparta Road, he said.
“You’re not going to be able to do that right hand turn and get across,” Elwell said.
The merge lane will still exist, he said, but people will be prevented from cutting a sharp left.
He hinted that the lane would likely carry drivers to or beyond Sparta Road.
Those planning to go to Sparta Road would have to go to the traffic signal at the Lakeview Drive intersection, make a right turn, and then merge across lanes to the left-turn lane.
Elwell said a lot of folks make the lane-change maneuver from the merging lane and are not watching what they are doing.
Sparta Road is one place where U-turns have been dangerous. Sebring Drive, in front of Village Inn Restaurant, is another, he said.
Finally, Elwell said several intersections may benefit from having cross traffic having separate green lights, so that eastbound straight and left-turn lanes operate separately from westbound straight and left-turns.
Flare Road would be one intersection that could benefit, he said. Drivers going east to the lake or west to Flare Road often lay on brakes or horns for people turning left in front of them, in violation of right of way.
The intersection at Bayview and New Life Way has that split right-of-way for cross traffic, but it doesn’t have a restricted Left-turn arrow for U.S. 27 traffic.
On Feb. 3, a Chevrolet Venture minivan attempted a left turn from the southbound lanes across northbound lanes toward Bayview Drive. It didn’t make it.
A northbound Jeep Cherokee hit the van in the side, bouncing it off a Chevrolet Avalanche pickup, which was waiting on Bayview, and tumbling the van over onto the northeast corner of the intersection.
The impact killed front seat passenger Vicki Griffith, 58, of Breese, Illinois.
On the southeast corner of the same intersection sits a marker for Travis A. Freer, 18, whose car ran into the back of a towed boat on June 30, 2007.
Witness accounts suggest Freer may have been distracted, leaning over for something in the car, because he never stopped.