With eight fatalities and numerous crashes in the past seven years, it was time for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to take action at the County Road 491 and U.S. 98 intersection.
In about a year, a new $3.5-million roundabout will go up at that dangerous corner, which should eliminate the problem, said Timothy Drawhorn, an FDOT roadway engineer supervisor.
Ever since the roundabout was proposed three years ago, motorists were concerned it would be just as dangerous as the flashing light there now.
What they wanted was a traffic signal. But FDOT said a roundabout is preferred because it will slow speeds and the motion of traffic will move in the same direction.
To make motorists more comfortable, FDOT on Wednesday did something it has not done before in its District 7 region — it set up a mock test track at the driving range at the education complex in Lecanto to allow drivers unfamiliar with roundabouts to maneuver the course.
Using their own cars, people got the feel of the roundabout set up to the exact dimensions of the one that will go in at County Road 491 and U.S. 98.
“Every roundabout is different,” said Drawhorn, who was present along with other FDOT staffers.
About 5,500 vehicles a day travel through that intersection and almost 17% are trucks. That’s why a truck apron will be built to accommodate the larger ones. Drawhorn said there will be signs and rumble strips set up warning drivers the roundabout is just ahead.
Drawhorn said the design will not block access to DesChamps Corner gas station/convenience store on the northeast corner.
Even though the intersection is in Hernando County, it is only 3.4 miles south of the Citrus County line so there are plenty of locals who frequent it.
Currently, drivers going south or north on C.R. 491 must stop at the red blinker while motorists going east or west on U.S. 98 have a yellow cautionary light.
If you didn’t get a chance to test-drive the mock roundabout, you’ve got another chance from 4-6 p.m. Thursday at the school complex driving range. Take County Road 491 to West Educational Drive, turn west and follow the signs.
Roundabout construction will start in November. To keep track of the project, visit www.fdottampabay.com/project/779/439448-1-52-01