Local News

Highlands highways rate ‘B’ or ‘C’

— Currently, only one intersection in Highlands County occasionally rates a “D.”

“Wal-Mart,” County Engineer Ramon Gavarrete said.

During peak driving hours during the winter tourist season, 38,000 cars and trucks a day cross Schumacher Road and U.S. 27.

However, he added, if Sebring Parkway isn’t built, “according to our traffic model, by 2020, we’re going to have some areas that are a D or even an F.”

Time out while the county’s traffic chief explains Florida Department of Transportation’s rating system.

“An ‘A’ is where you can go whatever speed you want. You’re not stopping for other traffic. A ‘B’ is pretty good speed. A ‘C’ is a pretty good, steady flow,” Gavarrete said Friday.

For “D,” picture Orlando, where the traffic light changes twice or three times before drivers can proceed.

An “F?” Well, everyone knows that one. That’s where the highway turns into what Gavarrete calls a parking lot.

As for Highlands County, there are no “A” highways, according to FDOT’s March 2014 data.

The “B” sections are the six most rural stretches of road:

State Road 64 between South Avon Estates Boulevard and the Hardee County line.

State Road 66 between County Road 635 and the Hardee County line.

State Road 70 between Placid View Drive and the DeSoto County line.

S.R. 70 between County Road 29 and the Okeechobee County line.

U.S. 27 between S.R. 70 and the Glades County line.

U.S. 98 between Haywood Taylor Boulevard and the Okeechobee County line.

All other roads are rated “C.”

“That’s why we are doing the parkway project,” Gavarrete said, “so some local traffic will use the parkway instead of 27.”

When Sebring Parkway Phase 2 and 3 are complete, Gavarrete hopes some drivers will prefer to drive from Highlands Regional Medical Center to Avon Park, and completely avoid U.S. 27.

The most urban areas of Lake Placid, Sebring and Avon Park are all rated “C.”

Highlands County has no “D” or “F” Levels of Service, Gavarrete said.

“We really don’t have a traffic problem in Highlands County,” Gavarrete said.

“I tell folks that and they don’t believe it,” Gavarrete said. “They tell me, and this includes my wife, ‘Oh, we stopped at this light and we had to wait forever.’

“What’s forever?” Gavarrete asked rhetorically. “Did the light change? Were you able to go?”

Constant changes have kept U.S. 27 through urban Sebring in the “C” category, Gavarrete said, including Sebring Parkway phases 1 and 2 from Schumacher around downtown to Sebring High School; upgrades to Sparta Road, and longer turn lanes so that traffic can get out of the traffic flow. Traffic is beginning to pick up on parkway sections, Gavarrete said.

U.S. 27 keeps getting busier, Gavarrete said.

“With our winter friends going home, we don’t have that much traffic this time of year, but not all of them return back to the north,” he said. “Every year, the traffic counts increase slightly.”