Dec 15th - POA (Property Owners Association) Meeting Road Safety with
Sumter County Sheriff's Office Lt. Robert Siemer - District Commander
We need action, not excuses on Morse Boulevard
JULY 13, 2015 BY ELLEN CORA
Villa and Villages residents along Morse Boulevard, north of County Road 466, and the thousands of drivers on this heavily traveled thoroughfare, are TIRED of hearing only EXCUSES from our public officials about why this dangerous, obsolete Sumter County road can NOT be updated to accommodate today’s traffic volume.
We are not lobbying for a new bridge or tunnel, or a four-lane super-highway. But we do need to SEPARATE THE GOLF CART LANES FROM LARGER, FASTER, VEHICULAR TRAFFIC for driver safety and peace of mind.
“Retrospect” is a great vision to have — and we aren’t critical of the Developers’ original road plans. When CDD 1 and 2 Villages were built in the 1990s, traffic was light, even in high season. But now:
1) Hundreds of Villa and Villages residents south of the San Marino traffic light have difficulty year round exiting their communities.
2) Cars and carts making left turns off of North Morse Boulevard cause major traffic tie-ups; and some angry car drivers illegally pass on the right using the cart lanes.
3) Cart drivers take their lives in their hands approaching the CR 466 tunnel — merging into southbound Morse traffic lanes, and crossing two lanes of continuous traffic entering the gates.
4) Gate guards pace car and truck traffic entering the CR466 gates at Morse Boulevard North. They don’t pace carts crossing the traffic lanes behind them, north of the gates. In the winter, the guards focus on preventing traffic backups onto CR 466 and Morse Boulevard South.
5) The proximity of golf cart lanes to the increased volume of faster commercial traffic, especially swaying lawn-service trailers and construction trucks, makes driving on Morse Boulevard North in our “Golf Cart Community” a menace.
Our esteemed Board of County Commissioners is a shining example of excellent government – responsible development and low taxes. Chairman, Don Hahnfeldt, plus Commissioners Garry Breeden, Don Burgess, Al Butler and Doug Gilpin, have many constituents — and many priority projects on their plates — for the entire county.
They juggle short- and long-term plans and projects for county growth and Villages expansion — including widening CR 466A and a future Turnpike interchange. LET US NOT ALLOW THEM TO FORGET RESIDENTS OF OLDER VILLAGES SECTIONS, Where fewer home sales deliver lower profits.
Commissioners Burgess, Butler and Hahnfeldt are Villages residents. All five gentlemen are intelligent and respectable – BUT THEY WILL ONLY MAKE MORSE BOULEVARD NORTH SAFETY A PRIORITY IF WE REMIND THEM – LOUD AND OFTEN – OF OUR NEEDS.
Hard accident data are lacking — but residents’ quality of life is adversely affected in our “Golf Cart Community.” Drivers are unnecessarily inconvenienced, and their lives endangered daily, on this risky road.
Sgt. Siemer of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office reported 13 Villages golf cart fatalities in the past seven years — only one on Morse Boulevard North. Considering road hazards, there have been remarkably few serious accidents. This is partly because many residents avoid North Morse altogether, or restrict their driving to early morning or later evening hours.
We have a great deal of respect for resident Sherrie Hyer, who delivered over 1,000 signatures and petitioned the Board of County Commissioners regarding North Morse.
Commissioner Gilpin is right: people speed, and a few drive tipsy after Happy Hour. Some citizens take prescriptions with judgment-altering side effects and many seniors have poor eyesight, hearing and dementias. Bad driver behavior is a law-enforcement problem, but THE MAJOR ISSUE IS THE NEED TO MODERNIZE THIS ANTIQUATED ROAD.
Commissioner Hahnfeldt says Morse Boulevard North CAN be improved — with a lengthy process of permits, open-minded engineering and money. We need engineers who tell us HOW WE CAN DO IT; NOT WHY WE CAN’T.
District Manager, Janet Tutt, is correct: the process will be very complex. Central Florida watershed drainage; wildlife conservation, underground plumbing, electric, fiberoptic cables, irrigation and other infrastructure issues are involved. Past band-aid improvements have helped in places — but with continued home building, crowds going to ‘The Sharon’ and other attractions — future traffic will only increase.
It is easy for some to say, in the absence of hard accident data, the costs to bring Morse Boulevard into the 21st Century far outweigh the benefits — but I strongly disagree.
WHERE DO YOU STAND ON THIS ISSUE? Don’t leave this to “the other guy or gal.” Let your voices be heard! Let’s rally to bring Morse Boulevard North into line with the rest of The Villages roads. Contact your Commissioners and resident boards.
It is the sworn duty of our elected officials to be stewards of resident safety and quality of life. I challenge our District Manager and all our District Boards of Supervisors to bring their influence to bear – and I challenge our County Commissioners to find the most cost-effective, efficient way to GET THIS DONE.
May 26, 2015 Sumter County Commissioners Meeting
Morse Blvd Safety Issues, The Villages
Does this look like a unruly crowd ? Concerned citizens and neighbors ... Commissioner Gilpin who is NOT a resident of The Villages insulted these citizens and their intelligence about the safety and speed allowed by law when operating golf carts... Gilpin... threatened these senior citizens with tougher law enforcement and speeding tickets and blamed them for the safety issues. Yes the crowd reacted to Gilpin"s very untimely and degrading remarks. Aileen Milton
Concerned citizens attend the May 26th Sumter County Commission Meeting ... A 1200 signature petition was handed over to the Commission.... along with verbal discussions and possible solutions were expressed regarding the safety issues on Morse Blvd from Hwy 466 north to Hwy 441 and the Rio Grande Blvd. Morse Blvd is a Multi - use Blvd ... too much traffic, golf carts, walkers, bikers, auto sharing one of the most heavily traveled thorough fares in The Villages. Death, collisions, near misses and ingress and egress into the neighborhoods near impossible especially during high season .. beginning each year between October through May. Last upgrades to Morse Blvd were in 2009 while traffic and The Villages Continues to grow.. Please watch the video of the meeting above. Contact Sherrie Hyer at ... sherrHy2@aol.com Sherrie has been leading this effort and petition after the death of neighbor in a golf cart - auto crash in January 2015.
Morse Boulevard widening champion vows to press on
June 12, 2015
By Meta Minton
Even though government officials are holding out little hope for widening Morse Boulevard from County Road 466 to El Camino Real, a Villager spearheading a recent petition effort presses on.
Villager Sherrie Hyer had delivered 1,000-plus signatures on a petition to the Sumter County Board of Commissioners last month, calling for something to be done on that stretch of Morse Boulevard.
On Tuesday, County Administrator Bradley Arnoldsaid the widening project would have an adverse impact on wetlands at the southern end of the road and could endanger animals who live there. The project also would require an alternative drainage solution to the ditches on the sides of the current roadway.
On Friday morning, District Manager Janet Tutt delivered a similar message to Community Development District 1. She said an environmental impact study alone could cost up to $50,000.
“It looks easy, but it’s not,” Tutt said in response to critics in the community who have called for widening Morse Boulevard.
However, CDD 1 Chair Ellen Cora warned there is a “core group” of activists who “aren’t going away.”
Cora said she has pressed county commissioners on this issue.
She suggested that a bond could be floated, and shared by all of the districts, as the road is traveled by all residents of the community.
CDD 1 Supervisor Craig Estep countered that would be a “a bad investment.”
He applauded the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office for stepping up traffic enforcement on Morse Boulevard.
“It’s been very, very effective,” Estep said.
Joan Testa of the Village of Rio Ranchero said she was among those who had called for the widening of Morse Boulevard.
“I did not comprehend the complexity of it,” Testa said. “I am more than willing to eat crow.”
Hyer attended the CDD 1 meeting, but did not speak.
After the meeting, she vowed to continue her efforts.
“Something has to be done,” she said. “I don’t want to see someone else killed.”
Villager’s petition, unruly crowd confront Sumter commissioners
May 26, 2015 By Marv Balousek
An unruly crowd confronted Sumter County commissioners Tuesday night on the issue of traffic safety along Morse Boulevard north of County Road 466.
Most of the 175 people who attended the meeting live in De La Vista and other neighborhoods along the boulevard.
They said conditions are not safe, especially for golf carts, because of speeding cars and the way the road is constructed.
Many came to the meeting to join villager Sherrie Hyer, who presented a petition to the commission with more than 1,000 signatures calling for safety improvements.
She began the petition drive after a neighbor, 85-year-old Frances Hughes, was killed Jan. 13 on Morse Boulevard when his golf cart collided with a van.
Peak traffic volume on Morse Boulevard has nearly doubled over the past six years to about 18,000 vehicles a day from about 9,500 in 2009, said county public works director Richard Baier. But he said the roadway usually remains in the range of its projected volume of about 15,000 vehicles a day.
Commissioners said they supported stronger law enforcement efforts to nab speeders as well as a program to improve signage visibility that is planned in next year’s county budget.
Villagers showed up for Tuesday’s meeting at Colony Cottage Recreation Center.
But they said capital improvements to the road would be expensive and time-consuming because they would require right-of-way acquisition from homeowners.
Morse Boulevard was upgraded with over $1 million in improvements six years ago that included left turn lanes, widened golf cart lanes and an additional traffic light.
“Things have changed,” said Commissioner Don Burgess, who has lived 17 years in The Villages. “I would agree it’s time maybe to take a look at this again.”
Commissioner Al Butler said some improvements, such as stepping up enforcement, will be easy to implement.
But Commissioner Doug Gilpin angered some in the crowd when he said the primary responsibility for safety lies with vehicle operators, including golf cart drivers who go faster than the 19.9 mph speed limit for unregistered vehicles.
“You’re talking to us like we’re a bunch of little kids,” shouted one man. “We don’t need a sermon,” another yelled.
During the public forum section of the meeting, residents aired their complaints about traffic safety on the boulevard.
“People think it’s NASCAR starting as soon as the gates open,” Hyer said.
Aileen Milton, a 20-year Villages resident, said, “You take your life into your hands getting out of the neighborhoods.”
We’ve lived here four years and we have seen an exceptional increase in traffic,” said Richard Brooks.
Donna Pierce said much of the traffic is due to drivers cutting through the area from County Road 466 to U.S. 27-441. Putting a stop sign at every intersection would put an end to it, she suggested.
“A number of people I know just have given up using their golf carts in the winter because they’re scared,” said CDD 1 Supervisor Ellen Cora. “We need a study of traffic in the winter – not in June when it’s light.”