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Widening of 200: NIMBY or NIML

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Column by Jim Clark 09-23-2016

Last week the Florida Department of Transportation held a public hearing concerning the proposed widening of State Road 200 from County Road 484 to the Withlacoochee Bridge, which is at the county line with Citrus County.
Criticism was almost unanimous from the few who attended. The crowd was about 40 people out of the tens of thousands that live out that way, and only three chose to speak. Maybe that was because the hearing was at a church on 484 which is nowhere near the people who would be affected, although there are places on 200, such as OTOW, the Sheriff’s Office, Marion Landing, and others, that could have handled this crowd easily (that’s no reflection on the hospitality of the Church of the
Advent people).
Those of us who have traveled this road frequently feel that the widening can’t come soon enough. This road is a death trap as people race at NASCAR speed up and down the highway between Ocala and Hernando. To many of us, four-laning is years overdue and should be completed as soon as possible.
The people who objected from Spruce Creek Preserve cited noise. Well, most noise on highways is caused by accelerating and braking, which will occur a lot less on a four-lane highway. There were concerns about what widening would open the neighborhoods up to, but that’s going to happen even if it stays two-lane.
There was also the complaint that the widening process shouldn’t be started without “an end game,” what’s going to happen at the bridge and beyond. I have to agree with this. I find it very disturbing that Florida DOT districts are so provincial that they can’t get together and plan one big project, even though it’s in more than one district.
Maybe that’s where our legislators can enter and demand that DOT plans include proposals for the entire road, and not let the dividing line for getting work happen occur at the river.
I did agree that maybe there should be a traffic light at the Preserve entrance.
So it seemed that the NIMBY effect, Not In My Back Yard, was on full display. None of the few speakers even mentioned the safety of the drivers who use this road every day to go back and forth, many because of their jobs.
But there was one other issue. Buried deep in the proposal was this one sentence, “The project is not yet funded.”
So to me, after seeing the number of folks my age or even older, it’s more of an NIML effect, or Not In My Lifetime.
I believe I’ll see it happen after I come across the first shovelful of dirt is turned. Meanwhile, I’ll drive carefully on the two-lane death trap. I suggest you do the same.

Jim Clark is the editor of the West Marion Messenger and South Marion Citizen.