dirksen drive
BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON MORE SPACE NEEDED FOR TRAFFIC — Looking eastward, Dirksen Drive sometimes becomes an alternative route for motorists seeking a way around congestion on Interstate 4. Leaders of Volusia County and DeBary are seeking funds to add a third lane to the rather narrow two-lane road that extends from Deltona to DeBary. The third lane is to be a “flex lane.” which could be opened to accommodate traffic going east or west during periods of heavy usage.

If all goes according to the latest timetable, a well-known two-lane byway on the south side of DeBary will be broadened to three lanes by midcentury.

City Manager Carmen Rosamonda said he talked with a group of transportation planners representing Volusia County and the Florida Department of Transportation about the proposed widening of Dirksen Drive. 

The project is tentatively slated for 2045. Rosamonda would like to see it happen sooner.

“We’re hoping to accelerate that with our growth,” he said.

The growth brings “issues,” Rosamonda noted, as drivers approaching backups on the major roads — including Interstate 4 — sometimes use Dirksen as an alternative.

“When it gets jammed up, they cut through our neighborhoods,” Rosamonda said.

Dirksen Drive, which spans 1.5 miles between Interstate 4 and U.S. Highway 17-92, could get a middle lane that may be bidirectional to handle traffic during periods of congestion on the more heavily traveled roads.

The middle, or flex, lane could help move traffic from east to west, or from west to east, when there is a crash on one or both of the bigger highways. Overhead signs could be set up to direct traffic to use the flex lane, as conditions change.

“We’re looking at how to find some money for the reversible lane,” Volusia County Engineer Tadd Kasbeer said.

Kasbeer confirmed a study of the proposed widening of Dirksen Drive “is in the five-year work program.” The study will probably cost approximately $160,000, he said. No funding has yet been allocated for design, engineering or construction.

The estimated cost of adding a third or middle lane — sometimes called a “suicide lane,” as drivers making left turns may risk being hit by oncoming vehicles — is $10 million. That number will likely increase because of inflation.

Dirksen Drive is a county-maintained thoroughfare.

While a four-lane road may be safer, the county does not now have enough right of way to accommodate a road wider than three lanes. Acquiring right of way would be costly, as there are drop-offs along parts of the south side of Dirksen Drive, and a walking and biking trail is not far from the roadway. If the county were to widen Dirksen to four lanes, the cost could be as high as $30 million, Rosamonda said.

Both Rosamonda and Kasbeer said one possible source of cash to speed up the widening of Dirksen Drive could be the Federal Highway Administration. Although Dirksen is not a federal road, it connects two federal roads, so Washington may provide a grant to cover part of the cost — and before 2045.

“Funding will set the timetable,” Kasbeer said.

The average daily traffic count for the portion of Dirksen Drive between Sunrise Boulevard and U.S. 17-92 is 8,360 vehicles. That figure comes from the county’s traffic engineering data recorded in 2019, the most recent data available.

Dirksen Drive is named after U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen. The Illinois Republican lawmaker had a home in DeBary and was a frequent visitor before his death in 1969. Dirksen was sometimes affectionately referred to as Florida’s third U.S. senator.

The future

The year 2045 may seem like a long time far into the future. It’s years from now.

If we look back 23 years, it was 1999. President Bill Clinton escaped conviction by the U.S. Senate on impeachment charges of perjury and abuse of power in connection with an inappropriate relationship with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

The spring of that year brought war in Europe. The U.S. and NATO attacked Serbia because of its treatment of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The aerial bombing campaign lasted 78 days, and the Serbian government said some 2,500 people had been killed.

As a new millennium approached, there were warnings about widespread cyber chaos just over the horizon. At the stroke of midnight, Dec. 31, 1999, we were cautioned, computers would  succumb to the Y2K failure, because they would be unable to adjust or reset themselves to 2000. Fortunately, the digital disaster and social cataclysms did not occur. Life went on.

Al Everson


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