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© St. Petersburg Times, published November 9, 2000
It has been seven years since the state Department of Transportation made the two major thoroughfares through Brooksville one-way streets. Once viewed as the most promising way to help relieve traffic congestion downtown, it has become more apparent every year that the experiment has been a failure. It has made it unsafe for pedestrians and has contradicted the efforts of merchants and others who have worked hard to maintain a downtown shopping district.
Now, thanks to a relatively new state law, the efforts of the revitalization group Downtown Development Inc., and the cooperation of Hernando County transportation planners, there is an opportunity to correct that mistake.
The state DOT may be willing to consider Brooksville eligible for funding from the Livable Communities Act, a 1999 state law that gives cities and towns more say about traffic patterns created by the state roads that run through them. If allowed, Brooksville would like to end the one-way pairings of Jefferson and Broad Streets, which run parallel from Mildred Avenue to the intersection of State Road 50 and U.S. 41 near the Hernando Heritage Museum.
Doing that would cost the DOT about $400,000. But that would be a significant savings compared with the $1.1-million the agency plans to spend to improve the intersections of Jefferson Street at Ponce de Leon Boulevard (U.S. 98), and Mildred and Jefferson.
Saving taxpayers money is always a compelling reason to evaluate transportation projects. But the most persuasive argument is that doing away with the one-way streets would restore a semblance of a traditional downtown area. Clearly, it is the first step necessary to enhance other downtown improvement projects, such as constructing bulb-outs from curbs to alter parking patterns, slow traffic and protect pedestrians.
The one-way traffic flow has created a hazard on Jefferson and Broad Streets, over which the DOT has jurisdiction. Automobiles and noisy, exhaust-spewing semitrailer truck rigs, most of them carrying rocks from area mines, routinely rumble through downtown at speeds well above the limit. The City Council is just as responsible as the DOT for that circumstance, because it has not insisted that the Brooksville Police Department enforce the speeding laws. The council also should have appealed to the Florida Highway Patrol and the Hernando County Sheriff's Office for help in that regard if it was needed.
The Hernando County Metropolitan Planning Organization will meet today to hear the proposal to do away with the one-way streets. We urge the MPO's members to give their blessing to the plan and to forward that recommendation to the DOT promptly.