PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Work is now underway on a new roundabout at a busy and crash-prone intersection at Alt 19 and Florida Avenue in Palm Harbor.
Transportation leaders have discussed the roundabout for the past seven years, and now construction is in motion. It’s a 2.6-million-dollar project and should wrap up in the Summer of 2023, despite some community backlash about the project.
Ben Nichols, the owner of de Bine Brewing Company, said he has witnessed many crashes firsthand and said he’s not opposed to the new roundabout if it helps keep his Palm Harbor neighbors safe.
“People, they fly down this road. They really do,” Nichols explained. “I definitely think something is needed here. It’s the entrance to downtown Palm Harbor, and it’s crazy busy. I think it will be nice and pretty when it’s done.”
Yet, others who live nearby aren’t thrilled. David Ballard Geddis Jr. has spent days on end holding up a handmade sign that says “no roundabout” at the intersection.
“I think it will lead to more congestion, and to further congest our roadways is not what I feel is an intended purpose of what government is supposed to be,” he added.
Geddis also worries about how a roundabout will slow down emergency vehicles on Alt 19.
FDOT said although the purpose is to slow down traffic; a roundabout should add less than 25 seconds to drivers’ commutes.
FDOT also shared studies with ABC Action News showing roundabouts can reduce fatal crashes by 90% and can reduce pedestrian and bicycle crashes between 10-40%. FDOT said that’s important because the intersection also serves as a popular Pinellas Trail crossing.
Opponents of roundabouts said they increase crashes overall, despite the reduction in fatal and serious injury crashes, and that they create confusion.
Nichols hopes people will come around to the roundabout concept once it's complete.
"People are used to driving around them up North. People seem to get around them pretty easy. It's not rocket science. It won't be too hard to get around; I don't think," he added.
Geddis plans to keep holding up his signs until transportation leaders take notice and reconsider the roundabout construction.
The project will also include drainage improvements, roadway resurfacing, new sidewalks, new landscaping, and new, shared-use pathways.