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County wrangles with traffic calming policy

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Hernando County’s Department of Public Works (DPW) has assembled a Traffic Calming Policy. The 13-page policy manual was presented at the regular Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting by DPW Director Scott Herring on May 24, 2022. Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the policy.

At the July 27, 2021 meeting, Commissioners gave Herring the directive to develop a policy, secondary to approving a traffic study conducted along Lawrence Street near The Oaks subdivision in Spring Hill. The board also approved temporary traffic calming devices to be installed along Lawrence Street. The effect of those devices will be studied for 6-8 months, and the board will hear the findings and vote whether or not to move forward with permanent devices.

Herring advised that setting a county-wide traffic calming policy sets a precedent. If traffic calming devices are installed on one roadway, residents near other problem roadways will expect the devices installed. Also of issue is the topic of financial responsibility — will the county or residents of affected neighborhoods pay for the devices, or share in the cost?

Because The Oaks development brought to the county’s attention the Lawrence Street problem, these residents are the first to consider how the traffic calming measures are paid for. What is not clear at this time is if residents not directly affected by traffic difficulties will have a vote in the permanent installation and ultimate payment for the traffic calming devices.

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It was revealed during this item’s public comments segment that Lawrence Street did not always connect Landover Boulevard with Barclay Avenue. Herring stated that he was not aware of when the roadway was opened on both sides and would require more research. He did say, “My guess is that it was ultimately intended to be a 4-lane roadway. It’s my recollection that the road is built offset in the right-of-way, and it’s a 100-foot right-of-way … Typically not what you use for a 2-lane road — that’s 50-60 feet (right-of-way).”

Commissioner John Allocco said, “I don’t have an issue with traffic calming if t’s paid for by the people who want it. Because what happens is you take that traffic and you push it onto the street next to it.” Allocco went on to say that he supports the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) to issue hefty fines for speeding on residential roadways.

Commissioner Beth Narverud added that the residents of problematic roadways are not always the perpetrators. “If you put a calming device on a road, how is it fair to make the people who live on that road to pay for the whole thing? Should it be partially on the Sheriff?”

Chairman Steve Champion added, “If you want something extra that nobody else has, there should be a mechanism to pay for it. There’s nothing wrong with the road, the road is fine,” concurring with Allocco and Narverud that drivers who violate the speed limit should face a penalty, rather than modify the roadway to dissuade speeders and reckless drivers.

From the DPW perspective, Herring said, “It’s very simple, regardless of what the speed limit is posted, the majority of people will drive the speed they feel comfortable with. That’s why when we do a speed limit study, we look at what’s called the 85th percentile — that’s what 85% of drivers are driving at or below (the speed limit).” The design of the roadway is also a factor. Herring went on to say that since the COVID pandemic began, speeds have increased. “People got used to the roads being empty …”

Several exchanges between the commissioners led to another question: should only property owners of Lawrence Street have a vote on an MSBU, or should all the residents of The Oaks, who use Lawrence to access their development vote as well.

Norman Stier, Vice President of The Oaks Homeowners Association told the board that the traffic problem on Lawrence has been an issue since 2006. He questioned why the county would not move forward with the calming devices. “The county has spent $35,000 on the University of Florida (UF) study … making all the recommendations that we have (The Oaks residents) been making ourselves for 16 years… The recommendations by the engineering department at UF was to implement the very things for which we are making an appearance today.”

Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil is a reporter for the Hernando Sun as well as a business technology developer, specializing in website development, content management systems, and data analysis.
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