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THE ISSUE: MPO approves Turkey Oak bypass study.

OUR OPINION: A wise decision.

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As the Suncoast 2 nears completion, its soon-to-be opening is concerning for Crystal River officials, who expect the impact of the added traffic in the city’s downtown core — U.S. 19 and State Road 44 — will not only result in a significant bottleneck for motorists, but also a further loss of community connectivity to the detriment of business owners and residents.

That’s why city officials have been pushing for a North Turkey Oak bypass as the best remedy for mitigating a debilitating traffic bottleneck in the city’s downtown core and ensuring the small town’s livability.

The Hernando-Citrus Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) obviously agreed, voting unanimously to pay $248,500 to its consultant, Kimley-Horn and Associates, to conduct a feasibility study on the proposed Turkey Oak bypass. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has agreed to cover the cost of the study.

The bypass study should take one year. If the idea proves feasible, the battle for a funding source begins before construction begins. If it doesn’t prove feasible, the study will provide other viable alternatives.

Kimley Horn will consider two things: whether Turkey Oak can handle the projected increase in vehicles given its current pavement conditions and how it would affect other roads in the area.

Other factors we hope to see addressed include safety and land issues. Along Turkey Oak is an entrance into Crystal River High School as well as the residents who currently live along the road. These are other factors that should be factored into the study.

As Kevin Cunningham recently pointed out in a guest column: “Our county's future “street” investments should focus on making Citrus County the best place it can be, calming traffic where needed, sprucing up the public realm, and supporting the growth of local entrepreneurs.”

This is an important item for the city of Crystal River. The study is a good first step to finding a viable solution for not only the residents and business owners of Crystal River and Citrus County, but travelers in and through the area.