ORANGE PARK – Engineers from the Florida Department of Transportation recently assured Orange Park residents that a $13.7 million plan to improve traffic flow at Wells Road and Park Avenue is still in the planning.
Set to begin construction in 2022, residents were given an opportunity on Nov. 30 to provide FDOT staffers with more input about the project that will be funded with both state and federal dollars when construction begins. The goal of the construction is to improve the operation of the highway, rather than increase the capacity.
“The issue with [U.S.] 17 is that there is a lot of traffic backup at [Interstate] 295, which a good portion of that traffic stemming from those trying to get from Wells to the interstate,” said Sara Pleasants, FDOT public information officer.
The project, which is currently in the design phase, plans to detour those traveling on Wells Road to Eldridge, all in an effort to reduce the stress on the light at Wells and Park Avenue/U.S.17, which is where the majority of traffic backup occurs in rush hour. While the detour won’t be mandatory, it will provide a new option for those driving on to Wells Road to get to I-295. The project also aims to repaint bicycle lanes, modify turn lanes and better synchronize traffic signal lights.
With these changes, the FDOT hopes to see a reduction in the time commuters spend sitting idle in traffic.
According to Jim Knight, the urban planning administrator for the FDOT, at a previously held meeting, a car idling for an hour burns roughly a quarter of a gallon of gas. While that number doesn’t seem like much, it certainly adds up. If traffic flow improvements saved 10,000 hours a day, that equates to saving 2,500 gallons of gas a day.
For residents with property near this end of U.S. 17, the FDOT might request a price for land that might be needed in the construction process. Property owners will first be contacted by the FDOT requesting a price. The property owner and the FDOT will negotiate until both parties are satisfied the land will be purchased. Property owners who think they’ll be affected can expect to hear from the FDOT in the coming years.
While not many Orange Park residents showed up to the open house, according to Pleasants, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“So far, the reaction has been positive,” Pleasants said. “Usually, if there’s opposition they would have been there, and we would have heard about it.”
Residents who missed the open house, and would like to comment on the construction, have until Dec. 11 to mail or email comments to Eric Shimer, FDOT engineer at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail him directly at 2198 Edison Ave., MS 2815, Jacksonville, FL 32204-2730.
Road updates and more information, is also available at www.nflroads.com/295@17.
While final plans won’t be approved until closer to the start of construction, construction is expected to begin in 2022 as planned.