Donna Dilling has had an ongoing petition on the counter of her store asking people to support a traffic light at the dangerous intersection where she is located.
DesChamps Corner is on the northeast corner of County Road 491 and U.S. 98 where car crashes and fatalities have been common. She’s gathered 1,550 signed petitions so far and is hoping that will sway the powers-that-be to stop plans to build a roundabout there and instead put up a light.
This week, Dilling got some help from the Agricultural Alliance of Citrus County (AACC), which agreed to draft a letter of support for the light and send it to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
She also got a vote of confidence from County Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith, who attended the AG alliance meeting and is convinced that a roundabout will probably not work at that intersection.
“Just put a darn red light up,” Dilling said Tuesday morning during a visit to her store. “A roundabout is not going to prevent accidents. It may prevent severe accidents, but a red light will reduce accidents.”
The AACC waded into the fray after member John Thomas spoke at length about the dangerous corner and the potential negative impact a roundabout would create for Dilling’s convenience store.
DesChamps is a favorite stopping place for truckers and is frequented by folks from Citrus County who are either headed to Hernando County for shopping or to access the Suncoast Parkway just west of the store.
Dilling said the rumble strips FDOT installed on either side of C.R. 491 leading up to U.S. 98 have helped alert drivers that a major intersection is coming up and to slow down. But it’s not 100 percent effective, she said, and the bad sight lines when they get to U.S. 98 make it difficult to judge.
Dilling’s petition has been at the store ever since FDOT proposed the roundabout about three years ago. Work on the $2.6 million traffic-calming device is scheduled to begin in 2022.
A roundabout will take out a chunk of her county-owned right of way in front of her store and reconfigure the road so that patrons will have a harder time accessing the place, she said.
“The truckers aren’t going to be able to get in here,” Dilling said.
Dilling said she is thankful of the Ag Alliance’s support.
“If we get the right people behind us, we can stop it,” she said.
FDOT officials said a roundabout is preferred over a traffic signal because it will slow speeds and the motion of traffic will move in the same direction.
Once built, there will be a flashing beacon, rumble strips, navigation signs and a gradual decrease in speed limit put in place to alert motorists the roundabout is ahead.
"Our in-house design team is currently working on plans, with the phase II plans expected this February," FDOT spokesman David Botello said. "The current concept shows the roundabout fitting within existing FDOT right of way at the intersection and there is no expectation or intent to acquire right of way from either property for this project."