It likely won’t happen for another two decades, but Florida Department of Transportation officials have set a public meeting from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the need to 4-lane U.S. 98.
The state already owns 100 feet of right of way, but when the road south of Sebring is widened, consulting project manager Sean Donahoo told the Highlands County commissioners the state will need either 155 for a suburban widening or 185 feet of right-of-way for a rural widening.
At Tuesday’s open house in Chateau Elan, 150 Midway Drive, a video will be shown, project maps and drawings will be displayed around the room, and Donahoo and other project staff will be available to answer questions.
“We need input from the community,” Donahoo said. The traffic study began in April 2012 and will end in March 2014.
“We’re looking several years down the road,” he told county commissioners. “If we wait until then, we’ll be too late for the game. Once the study is complete, we’ll send it to the Federal Highway Administration for approval. ”
Current traffic is about 8,000 vehicles per day; by 2035, as many as 25,000 vehicles per day will use U.S. 98, Donahoo said.
Four lanes will enhance safety with grass medians in the road, Donahoo said, and it will improve emergency evacuations.
Preliminary costs are estimated at $36 million to $38 million. “There is currently no funding for this, but that changes all the time,” he said.
The widening would start on S.R. 66 at George Boulevard and continue across U.S. 27, 27, Haywood Taylor (Airport Road) and end at Elliott Road.
The portion between Elliott and Arbuckle Creek Road will be studied later, he said. That’s when FDOT might look at the highway’s effect on Spring Lake’s drainage problem.