BROOKSVILLE - Downtown Brooksville should be a place where residents and visitors alike can stop and shop, walk the streets and spend time, according to Brooksville Vision Foundation President Cliff Manuel.
But, Manuel said during a presentation at Monday night's City Council meeting, the truck traffic from two highways with one-way street traffic are preventing vibrant downtown development.
"It disrupts the environment we're trying to create for a passive, recreational environment where you can sit and enjoy," Manuel said.
After Manuel presented several options for re-routing highway traffic away from downtown Brooksville, the council unanimously passed a resolution aimed at converting the streets back to two-way traffic.
The vote is just the first step of many necessary steps, including studies, funding and approval from the Department of Transportation, before any changes are made, Manuel said.
The U.S. 98 solution would direct traffic off of Jefferson, using Ponce de Leon Boulevard or Cobb Road to link up with traffic on U.S. 98 north of the city.
Manuel said the changes to U.S. 98 would be "inexpensive" and based on signs, but "not the best long-term plan," since highway traffic would still be passing through downtown from U.S. 41.
Another option, Manuel said, would be to designate Emerson Road as U.S. 41, lining it up with S.R. 50A, and creating a new road on publicly-owned land to link Emerson and Mondon Hill Roads.
Councilman Joe Johnston III later called the proposed U.S. 41 route as "the most cost-effective, direct route" he's seen over the years.
"It's more do-able than anything we've looked at in the past," Johnston said.
Stretches of Jefferson and Broad Streets were converted to one-way in 1993 after the State decided it was the most efficient way to move highway traffic through the city, Manuel said.
"There are a handful of us in this room who remember standing on the courthouse steps with . Lawton Chiles, and the businesses were there begging him to reverse those one-way pairs," Councilwoman Lara Bradburn said. "Thankfully, we've had more businesses than we've ever had in the City of Brooksville, but there's room for improvement."
Bradburn also said the reversal of the one-way streets is the top priority for the nonprofit vision foundation, downtown businesses and the county.
Manuel said he will present the ideas to the Board of County Commissioners and Metropolitan Planning Organization in the near future.