While a timetable for the makeover hasn’t been established yet, we know that the intersection of State Road 44 and Kepler Road in DeLand is going to look a whole lot different. It not only will look different — the state is planning to build a roundabout — but hopefully the changes will make that congested intersection move traffic a whole lot more smoothly, efficiently and safely, with fewer accidents and injuries.
For those of you who regularly drive that stretch of road, the coming relief is welcome news. But, by the sound of things, you have lots of questions. And that’s a good thing. Because there truly is no substitute for engaged citizens who take an active interest in their government and the decisions that affect our community.
The Florida Department of Transportation, which is planning the roundabout, recently hosted a webinar to roll out the proposed design and answer questions from the public. About 60 people participated in the virtual meeting and provided lots of thoughtful feedback and questions about the project — things like lighting, landscaping, right-of-way acquisition, truck traffic, ingress and egress to homes and businesses in the area, and whether the roads will be closed during construction (they won’t).
Here are some of the details from DOT: The project will include resurfacing of State Road 44 from approximately 800 feet west of Kepler Road to Talisman Road, and resurfacing of Kepler Road from 650 feet south of Kepler Road to 1,250 feet north of State Road 44. In addition, a center bidirectional turn lane will be added along State Road 44 from east of Kepler Road to Lake Winnemissett Drive. The main feature will be replacement of the existing traffic signal with the roundabout — two travel lanes in each direction, with accommodations for large trucks, pedestrians and bicyclists.
As DOT explains it, roundabouts don’t magically eliminate all accidents. But due to the reduced speeds and traffic patterns of a roundabout, crashes are typically the minor fender-bender, rear-end or sideswipe types that don’t result in serious injury or fatalities. The reason is because roundabouts eradicate the opportunities for vehicles to cross paths at high speeds. And, given all of the new development planned for that area, safety must come first.
While the state hasn’t programmed the construction funds yet, the County Council is doing its part to move things along by agreeing to pay up to $3.9 million to help acquire the right of way needed for the project.
Meanwhile, the state is planning to have another public hearing on the project early next year. In the meantime, for those who still have questions, you can direct them to J. Todd Helton at DOT by calling 386-943-5207.
Let’s all continue to stay engaged and help keep this badly needed transportation project on track!
— Girtman is a member of the Volusia County Council, representing West Volusia District 1.