KEY LARGO -- To the delight of business owners on the island, state road officials have announced plans to install wrong-way signs near the Mile Marker 99.3 corridor.
Last month, The Citizen reported the southbound side of the divided Overseas Highway area was prone to accidents and outlined complaints from neighboring businesses about motorists trying to turn north into the southbound lanes. The businesses had made several attempts to contact Florida Department of Transportation officials to no avail.
"This is incredible," Keys Art and Furniture owner Mark Willis said after learning about FDOT's decision. "It really is good news."
Willis, though, said the new signs will likely benefit the tenant that comes after him. After 10 years, he said he is looking for a new location with a lower monthly rent.
Willis says he still sees wrong-way drivers outside his business two to three times each day.
Employees at the bayside Pelican Hotel have also complained that their guests sometimes turn the wrong way out of the resort. This comes despite cautions from the front desk.
FDOT announced the decision to install signs in an email to The Citizen.
"Our office conducted a field review and found that the addition of two 'wrong-way' signs directly north of Mrs. Mac's Kitchen and Keys Art and Furniture is justified," wrote Jennifer Borges, an engineer with the FDOT. "In addition, we will be adding other wrong-way signs in the vicinity of these businesses along the U.S. 1 southbound corridor."
The problem appears to arise from the fact that the four-lane highway in that area has two southbound lanes that are separated from two northbound lanes by a large median occupied by businesses. In many spots, motorists on the southbound side cannot see the northbound lanes. Those exiting bayside properties can mistakenly believe they are turning onto a single highway with two-way traffic, rather than onto two lanes of southbound traffic.
Borges added that one-way signs also will be added throughout the area to alert drivers exiting businesses.