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Brooksville eyes downtown minus truck traffic

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Downtown Brooksville will eventually be free of truck traffic, but it could take a decade for it to get that way, according to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Federal Grant Coordinator and Transportation Manager Brian Hunter. Hunter shared the news with members of the Brooksville City Council during their workshop session on April 3.

Under a just-passed ordinance, the City of Brooksville will remove pavement from older streets in order to reveal the brick streets that lie beneath. Those streets are largely located in Downtown Brooksville.

Currently, though, some of those streets are used by drivers of large trucks who go through the downtown area rather than around it.
“My issue is the trucks downtown and the speed limit,” said Council Member Christa Tanner.

Hunter told the panel that before the city could reroute traffic around Brooksville’s downtown area, FDOT would have to build the roads necessary to create a truck route around the city. Funding the truck route road project and designing and constructing it would take about ten years.
“It’s just the way our funding stream goes,” Hunter said.

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In the meantime, improvements to Jefferson and Broad streets did not represent an option that would move the project forward faster, Hunter said.
“You’ve got all different directions swirling over there that aren’t conducive to truck movement right now,” he explained. “There may be an interim condition that we could put out there that would allow us to move that forward with some longer-term program, but we’d have to look into that a little bit more.”

In the meantime, Vice Mayor David Bailey said that speed control and strategically placed weigh stations could convince truckers to avoid the downtown area altogether.

“We have that school center there (on Jefferson and Broad streets), and 30 mph is what trucks need,” said Vice Mayor David Bailey. “If we change that area to 15 school zones, we could reroute the trucks.”

He also suggested that truck weigh scale hubs placed near the downtown area could also keep truckers from using those streets.
“We could do it in the city, and if they know they are going to get checked, they might not come through the city,” Bailey said.

In response, Hernando County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Lt. Dave Lewis said that while the HCSO does not have the scales, they could be obtained from the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP). “We can certainly try to work with them to see if they could bring some of their troops here to do that,” Lewis said.

Finally, Hunter told the panel that the next step was giving City Manager Ron Snowburger the go-ahead to work with the FDOT on crafting an interlocal agreement to get the road project moving forward. “That interlocal agreement will be pretty simple, but we can set out some of the time frames, and if there is a potential for the city to partner on some of the design cost to advance that, we can have that conversation,” Hunter said.

That agreement could also possibly include rare FDOT participation in brick streets restoration because, according to a FDOT representative also at the workshop, “I’ve been with the FDOT for 17 or 18 years and I’m not aware of any (restoration) project that I’ve ever done.”

Any FDOT funding participation in the effort to restore brick streets in Brooksville would take place after having discussions with the city.
“We would have to do a study to see exactly what the restoration would be before we would participate in it,” he said.

Tanner said that, in any case, moving forward on such a project is critical. “I really would like the city to have those roads, but I don’t want to put this truck issue off for decades,” she said. “I’d like to see us working toward a way to get those trucks off Main Street as soon as possible.”

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