Ocala wants to shrink busy section of SR 441



OCALA, Fla. - The city of Ocala wants to shrink a busy section of State Road 441 from six lanes down to four.

Officials want to make the section of road more pedestrian friendly and add medians and walkways.

But business owners are fighting the plan.

The section of SR 441 through Ocala known by locals as Pine Avenue is 1.8 miles in length and features six lanes that are jammed with 30,000 vehicles a day.

"Why do we want to put the same amount of cars on less lanes? Why do we do that?" said business owner Sam McConnell.

McConnell owns an oil and lube business on 441, and he can't understand why some city leaders want to reduce the number of lanes from six to four.

"Anytime you restrict access, you restrict business trade," said McConnell.

Supporters want a walkable urban roadway with grass medians and trees -- a community that's not divided by such a wide, busy highway.

Crossing six lanes of traffic is no picnic, even in the cross walk.

A Critics said squeezing all this into four lanes still won't make it pedestrian friendly.

"I've lived here my whole life. I would say if they change it from six lanes to four lanes, it would really create a hazardous situation for the entire community here," said Ryan Garbula, an Ocala resident.

WFTV also found residents who believe a radical reduction in the number of lanes will make walking along the road much safer.

"So you think that's a good idea?" WFTV's Berndt Peterson asked.

"Yes, I do. I'm for it," said Ocala resident Joann Fannin,

Some officials call their plan a road diet.

"We need more lanes, not less. More left-turn lanes. More right turn lanes to the major arteries like State Road 200," said McConnell.

The Florida Department of Transportation has held three public meetings on the proposed changes and has hired an engineering firm to conduct a study.