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Time for a new interchange

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Column by Jim Clark

Sitting at the traffic light at State Road 200 and Interstate 75 the other day, I began to let my mind wander to the chance that maybe someday traffic would be eased a little.

Then came the story that the County Commission wants to expand plans at 95th Street to create a full interchange, with an existing road to the west past Liberty Middle and Hammett Bowen schools, and a new road to the east toward Shady Road, or Southwest 27th Avenue extended.

I mentally cheered, but I knew there would be an immediate outcry. I wasn’t disappointed.

Many of the complaints come from those who want to “preserve” Shady Road, although I’m not sure what they want to preserve. It already handles a bunch of north-south traffic from State Road 200 to County Road 484. With the opening of the new 31st Street extension, which becomes 42nd Street by the time it reaches Trinity Catholic, it is now possible to come from the east on Maricamp Road, take the new road, then turn south on 27th Avenue all the way to 484 and you’re just one block from the interstate. If you’re going south, it’s a better route from the east than going out 200 past the mall to the intersection there.

It’s just a matter of time before this road is overcrowded, but a new intersection at 95th would stop traffic from going further south on Shady Road and allow it to link up to the highway quicker.

The part I’m not sure about is to the west, where it’s going to come close to two schools. There would have to be some good engineering to create service roads, etc., to make sure the students stay safe. And the intersection with 49th Avenue would have to be straightened into a through street, and a stop sign put up on 49th.

And make no mistake, a westbound exit would be beneficial. It would allow people to come up 95th all the way to 200 near Lowe’s, avoiding a lot of that traffic that builds up around the existing interchange.

There is already an overpass (the new politically correct term is “flyover”) at 66th Street, but I’m sure it’s too close to State Road 200 to create an interchange there, at least that’s what DOT would say. Never mind that in places like Tampa, where I was this past weekend, there is a series of exits off 275 at Bearss, Fletcher, Fowler and Busch that are pretty close together. DOT would probably still insist that 95th is better for an exit than 66th.

Chances are, I’ll be too old to drive (or worse) by the time all this becomes a reality. But traffic isn’t going to get any lighter, and some relief is needed. We’re in this traffic mess now because of poor planning years ago. Let’s not make the same mistake that will affect those who come after us.

 

Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen. He can be reached at editor@smcitizen.com or at 352-854-3986.