Villages golf carts on the move

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By Larry Clifton

The county’s recent approval of a resolution allowing golf carts to cross four-lane El Camino Real onto four-lane Buenos Aires Boulevard in The Villages prompted complaints from Commissioner Dick Hoffman who resides nearby, even though he brought the resolution before the board.
Despite fellow commissioners approving the resolution by a 3-2 vote in October, Hoffman complained about the action during a Dec. 14 county commission meeting in Bushnell.
“There is a saying, ‘be careful what you ask for …’ said Hoffman.
Hoffman did not regret passing the resolution that professional traffic planners described as a public danger, but instead, expressed his disappointment that golf cart drivers now allowed to turn left into a popular medical center aren’t allowed to travel further east on Buenos Aires to a Shell gasoline station at the intersection of busy Highway 27/441.
Kimberly-Horn and Associates, an engineering firm that provides a wide range of consulting services concerning traffic issues, stated that the resolution commissioners already approved could jeopardize the health, safety and welfare of the general public. However, commissioners approved that intermingling of golf carts with traffic up to the medical plaza, which is about two blocks east of the Shell station.
The county installed over twenty standard street signs directing golf cart operators how to maneuver from El Camino Real east on Buenos Aires to Professional Plaza where golf cart operator must turn left into the plaza without benefit of a turn lane. The standard signs were installed to “meet pre-Thanksgiving utilization on access” until more expensive decorative street posts could be purchased by the county to match The Villages decorum, according to County Administrator Bradley Arnold, who recommended that the board not pass the resolution.
Commissioner Garry Breeden clarified that customizing the initial access resolution would require eliminating signage that currently restricts access to the gas station, prompting a quick response from Arnold.
“What we have are signed, sealed and stamped engineered drawings related to the signage that’s for our organization’s protection relating to liability, so I would not recommend eliminating any signs,” said Arnold.
Standard signposts are to be replaced by 21 decorative posts to match The Villages’ posts at a cost of $21,560, not including installation.
Hoffman suggested the county not proceed with that decorative post order until commissioners re-address the golf cart restrictions issue in January and determine how many posts would be needed if access is extended to the Shell station.
Traffic consultants fear that golf cart operators and passengers will be exposed to rear-end collisions and other potential encounters with cars and trucks because golf carts must merge into the left lane and wait for oncoming traffic to clear before turning into the plaza.
In opposing golf carts mingling with traffic on Buenos Aires, county administration staff relied on testimony from an established consulting firm hired by the county that warned approval of the resolution would place the public in danger, according to Arnold.
When departing the Plaza, golf cart operators must merge left again to cross El Camino Real to reach a cart path because vehicles traveling in the right lane on Buenos Aires must turn right on El Camino Real. Golf carts are not allowed to travel north on El Camino Real.