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One-way streets flexible after all

The state Department of Transportation has insisted on keeping them in the past, but that attitude has shifted.

By DAN DeWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- Considering how desperately Brooksville has wanted to do away with its one-way streets and how long the state Department of Transportation has insisted on keeping them, the words of a local transportation planner sounded almost revolutionary.

"DOT's position has always been, ardently, that it's not negotiable," said Dennis Dix, Hernando County's transportation planning coordinator.

"Now, apparently, it is negotiable."

The department's new flexibility is due to a 1999 state law called the Livable Communities Act, Dix said. It has caused a shift in the department's attitude regarding state streets within city limits. Cities now have more power in determining traffic patterns in these streets as long as it does not interfere with the ability of state highways to carry traffic across the state.

Hearing this at its meeting Monday night, the Brooksville City Council voted to ask the state to explore the idea. Specifically, it wants to ask the transportation department if the $1.1-million designated for two intersection improvements -- one at Jefferson Street and Ponce de Leon Boulevard and at Mildred Avenue and Jefferson -- could be spent on changing the re-alignment of the one-way streets. The cost of that project has been estimated at $400,000.

City Council member Joe Johnston, who is the city's representative on the county Metropolitan Planning Organization, said he will bring the idea up at the organization's meeting Thursday. The MPO will probably then forward it to the state.

The timing of this discussion is right for two reasons, Johnston said. The two intersection improvements are needed, he said, mostly because of the one-way alignment, which has been in effect since 1993. Mildred has never been adequate to funnel traffic from Jefferson to Broad Street, Dix said, and the increased westbound traffic on Jefferson created by the one-way pattern causes continual backups at the intersection with Ponce de Leon.

Also, Johnston said, getting rid of the one-way streets would fit in perfectly with the current plan to rehabilitate downtown Brooksville. The city has $1.1-million in state money to spend on the revitalization project. The one-way streets are considered a serious obstacle to this work, said Sherry McIntyre, a board member of Downtown Development Inc.

McIntyre was the one who asked Dix about the law at Monday's meeting.

The one-way streets cause traffic to move through the city too quickly, she said. This encourages trucks to use the city as a shortcut; it means the streets are frightening for pedestrians and that drivers who might want to stop in the city are whisked through it before they can get a good look at the stores.

"I heard about the (Livable Communities Act) and I wanted to see if Dennis could shed any light on it and see if we had any more options," she said.

"I would love to see (the end of the one-way system) at the same time as the rest of the work," she said.

"The one-way pairs are meant to get traffic through town fast, but when that happens, it doesn't help business."

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