Parkway intersection at college may change again
Gary Pinnell | Highlands TodaySEBRING The Sebring Parkway connection with Avon Park might be changed to suit South Florida State College after all.
Published: February 19, 2013
Published: February 19, 2013
A year ago, over the objection of college officials, Highlands County commissioners decided 4-1 to go back to the original intersection design – Option 1 – which would route Sebring Parkway squarely with College Drive. Option 2 would have coaxed drivers onto Memorial Drive and north to downtown Avon Park.
On Tuesday, at the request of SFSC Vice President Glenn Little, the commissioners sent County Engineer Ramon Gavarrete back to the drawing board on a third option which President Norm Stephens preferred years ago.
Similar to Option 2, that third option, said SFSC Trustee Joe Wright, would route drivers past College Drive, which college officials said is dangerous to students, faculty and staff because trucks and other traffic would likely use it as a shortcut.
"I only have one vote," said Wright, who is one of eight trustees, "but I think the college would vote to take some pretty dramatic action to stop that."
Phases 1 and 2 start and end on U.S 27, looping past Ruby Tuesday around downtown Sebring and stopping at Highlands Regional Medical Center.
Phase 3 will start at the 90-degree turn north of downtown Sebring, cut through what are currently orange groves and subdivision streets, and join Memorial Drive 4.1 miles later, south of Avon Park.
A four-way intersection at College Drive would have fewer conflict points than the diamond-shaped one with two extra left and right turns, Handley said in March. Although he stuck with his vote on Tuesday, the other four commissioners chose to have Gavarrete talk with Little.
"We want the college involved," said Commissioner Greg Harris. "They don't want a throughway, and I share that concern."
Wright and Little followed Gavarrete to his office after the commission meeting, where they looked over the third option.
"Something has got to change in that intersection," Wright said. When the parkway was designed a decade ago, he suggested, there was no clear route from 90-degree turn to U.S. 27, and College Drive seemed like the best option.
If traffic continues past College Drive, the path to U.S. 27 twists and turns through surface streets. However, Wright said the college owns much of the land around Lake Lelia, north of College Drive. He proposed a new road which would start on Memorial Drive, follow some surface streets, and come out at RaceTrac convenience store.
"The college could work with them on that," he said. "The one challenging issue is in trying to accommodate the railroad track."
The commission also voted 4-1 to hire an outside engineer to design the intersection.
"Ramon has got so many other projects on his plate that are time sensitive," Harris said, "so he needs help. And we have to complete the parkway by October 2014."
That's a Florida Department of Transportation timeline, Gavarrete told the commission. FDOT is sharing $3 million of the cost.
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