Getting around town


Published: Sunday, January 22, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 10:56 p.m.
The area has become vehicle surly with all the mistimed traffic signals and the lack of a master plan for development.
As a 35-plus year visitor to the Gainesville area, and now resident of two years, I find the debate about making the area more "bicycle friendly," rather ironic. The area has become so subdivided into enclaves of housing and businesses, that the region has become vehicle surly.
If one wants to go east or west, there are two major roads that connect to, and cross, I-75. If you wish to go north and south, you have three, four, maybe five: depending upon what your need happens to be. In any instance, there is no easy way to get from A to B. One spends as much time idling at traffic lights as moving about in traffic.
It would be nice to be able to park one's car and shop at one, two or three stores or dine at a restaurant that are next to each other, but that is nigh to impossible. You have to move to a new parking spot in that establishment's lot: after making a half-mile, five minute trip in and out of the lots, just to go 300 yards.
One puts one's life in harm's way, if you have to cross the road or through one or more lots on foot. On one of my excursions, I could see a business that I needed to get to, but could not figure out how to get there. I had to drive one mile past the place, turn back, go down a side street; and there, I found the parking lot entrance.
It had an address on University Avenue, but no signage or numbers indicating such. It took 30 minutes longer than it should have, and I was late for my appointment.
I have friends who live in neighboring communities; they can see each other's homes, but cannot walk there. It is a two mile drive back and forth and there is no bike lane. I imagine the Fire Rescue and Sheriff's Office have the same issues in these sorts of neighborhoods.
The debate about roundabouts is also rather curious. Tower Road is one of those major north-south connectors, which will allow one to get from Newberry to Archer Roads, with some sense of ease. It is not much better than it was some 35 years ago, although the county did manage to somewhat pave some cross streets.
I also see that there is another extension past Archer Road, just now under construction: perhaps more enclaves of houses and businesses? A lot of old trees are coming down.
Tower Road needs to be five-laned from one end to the other, with properly timed signals, bicycle and left turn lanes. If roundabouts are to be installed, traffic will divert to Parker Road and others: though further, it will be quicker. I wonder where all the big trucks will go?
From what I read and see, there is no long-term master plan for roads and transportation by the area cities or county; or serious coordination with the neighboring counties. It is a seemingly fly by the seat of your pants, made to fit the problem of the week, political operation. To fix a perceived problem, there are months of discussion; will take five years to implement and will have made everyone unhappy.
If there is a master plan, it needs to be updated to reflect the true growth in the area. It should provide a clear and definitive plan for the area's growth and expected transportation needs. There should be dozens of studies from the state and university that can provide these data.
The powers that be may want to keep the 1950s charm and cuteness of the area, but the facts of life bode otherwise. They need to take a hard look at the "charm": dilapidated, empty and substandard buildings; abandoned mobile homes; dead vehicles; old boats and piles of trash. Some of these places are an environmental nightmare, or a recycler's dream.
The vast majority of people will not abandon their vehicles for bicycles; only the dedicated fool-hardy souls and those living within a mile of where they school or work will do so. Park and ride efforts need to be expanded to the outlying areas where the growth is exponential.
As the prices of real estate soar, farms and ranches are becoming subdivisions, the old timers are selling out for greener pastures. Make it easier to get to businesses A, B and C. Allow them to be closer to where we live, so we won't have to waste time in traffic, burn fuel and lose time with the family.
The cost of fuel will continue to go up and people will still drive to wherever. Our county fuel tax money should be spent on: fixing the poorly paved roads; providing meaningful regional transportation; synchronizing traffic signals; and removing impediments that create bottlenecks. These sorts of things will keep the area the pleasant place it is perceived to be - but in the 21st century.
Richard Deschenes lives in Archer and is a substitute teacher in Levy County.

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