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FDOT has you driving in circles

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Column by Jim Clark

Way back in the dark ages, when I was a little kid, I lived in northern New Jersey. Nearby, at the Cresskill-Dumont border, there was a tall Washington Monument-like obelisk called the Camp Merritt Monument.

It was centered in a large (at least to a little kid it seemed large) traffic circle where two low-speed roads, Madison Avenue and Knickerbocker Road, intersected.

As I got older and got a driver’s license, I learned to hate that circle.

As you approached, you never knew who was going to stop and who was going to let you go. I know there are rules about the right of way, and signs telling you to yield, but in those days I don’t remember any such rules or signs.

I was happy when traffic circles started disappearing. I recall one at the foot of Mason Avenue in Daytona Beach that was terrible, but it’s now gone.

Then, about 20 years ago, the circles started re-appearing. Now, though, they were given the kinder, gentler name of “roundabouts.”

When I was working in New Smyrna Beach around 2000 or so, there was a roundabout constructed on Beachside. There was a dedication ceremony, and I recall taking pictures.

Shortly after this roundabout opened, a car came barreling down one of the streets and plowed straight through, damaging the manicured bushes and other flora that had been placed in the circle. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but I looked with disdain as this roundabout was repaired. Whether it’s still there, I don’t know.

Now comes a developer who wants to put an oversized development on State Road 200 just north of the river. And how does the Florida Department of Transportation plan to handle the 20,000 or so vehicles that will want to enter the newly widened highway?

No, not a traffic light. They want to put in a roundabout.

I know there are differences in rules between a roundabout and a traffic circle. But the principle remains the same. People are supposed to slow down as they enter the roundabout, thereby allowing people coming out of the development to enter the highway.

People who believe that, are probably those who lose money to the IRS or “can you hear me OK?” scams. Slow down on 200? Not a chance.

It’s obvious that FDOT is a slave to its numbers and surveys and computers. It’s too bad FDOT isn’t a slave to the people who pay their salaries.

There are other roundabouts in Marion County, including at least three on East Fort King Street and one in Fore Ranch. But none of these is on a high-speed highway.

At my age, I realize that I probably won’t be driving on this road by the time this development happens. But to the people who live around there, whether in Florida Highlands or the new deveopment, this is a very real problem they face in their future.

I’d tell you to fight it by writing or calling FDOT. But that may be a waste of time. FDOT is good at having you go around in circles.

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