PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Fresh paint and a new direction didn’t stop cars from flying over the brand new lane changes FDOT made on U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor.
“For years and years that hasn’t been there,” said Fran Tolson, who works in the shopping center nearby.
The fourth northbound lane of U.S. 19 just south of Curlew Road is now a designated turn lane at 297th Avenue. That means cars must either turn right or get over a lane to the left. But, drivers didn’t seem to grasp that.
“They’ve installed it and people that have been driving 19 for many years, which so many people have, they’re not prepared for this at all,” said Tolson.
The Florida Department of Transportation says it made the change to hopefully keep cars coming from SB 19, turning left onto 279th from getting hit by traffic in that fourth NB lane. Many businesses along in that area told ABC Action News the spot is extremely dangerous.
“Sometimes people tend to take chances, they get tired of waiting and they try it and that’s usually when you hear the horns blowing,” said Tolson.
“It’s bad, everybody tries to avoid 19 as much as they can,” said Inas Morsy.
About mid-day Tuesday, road crews showed up to install tubular delineators at the turn to help keep people from blowing through the turn lane.
There was confusion all around, even still, with drivers still not realizing the change until it was too late. Some sat in the middle lane, waiting for a chance to dart left. Others would bypass the posts and get back onto 19.
“Well, you know whenever you make a change at first it can be risky,” Tolson said.
Others chose to make the right turn, swing around in the parking lot, and pull back out.
FDOT says drivers are warned about 1,000 feet ahead of the turn which gives them plenty of time to get over. They say once folks learn about the change they believe drivers will get over even sooner.