KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – Construction on County Road 315C has begun, and the journey it took to reach this moment in history goes back years.
A 2.74-mile stretch of C.R. 315C roadway in Keystone Heights will overhauled by next year. It will include new pavement, widened lanes, paved shoulders, modified driveway culverts and more. Residents are overjoyed. And while things are looking easy now, it took years of work to get the county to start the construction.
“The original road was built by the Florida Department of Transportation long before me or [Clay County Deputy Director in charge of streets and drainage] Mike Todd were born and I’m pretty old,” Clay County Public Works Director Dale Smith said. “It was built in the 1940s or 50s and it was built very narrow. It worked as a rural county road, but it doesn’t function as that anymore.”
That’s because hundreds of cars drive on it each day and more people live along the road than 50 years ago. Smith said there was a request years ago to widen and resurface the road, but it didn’t go anywhere with the Florida Department of Transportation.
Two sides of C.R. 315C received some love over the years but the three-mile stretch getting a facelift right now was oddly left untouched. It’s a piece of Clay County history because it’s the same pavement from more than 50 years ago.
The new construction came by way of a state grant from Sen. Rob Bradley’s Senate appropriations. FDOT funds many of the county’s roadway construction projects. Many programs open around December and January and the county submits potential projects to FDOT and state congress. Sometimes projects are approved and funded, other times they aren’t.
Smith said it’s not unusual for a project to get denied a few times before finally receiving funding. A look through county history would suggest that’s what happened with C.R. 315C. This project in particular was funded by $3 million with Senate appropriations.
A drive through the area already reveals land cleared of trees and construction crews in the early beginnings of the project. Over the next 290 days, drainage improvements will be made as will a re-paved, inclined shoulders. The road will be much safer to drive as a result of these improvements and because it’s been designed in such a way to quickly get water off of it, its life will be longer.
“It reduces hydroplaning and, with less water on it, will last longer,” Todd said.
With C.R. 315C finally getting some much-needed love, Keystone Heights residents have their eyes on County Road 314, the brother to C.R. 315C.
“I know they have to finish C.R. 315C,” C.R. 314 resident Linda Chandler said. “I know it’s bad down there. It needs to be fixed and everything but when will they stop people from dying on this road.”
Chandler said C.R. 314 has had more deaths and accidents than most expect. Someone crashed into her front yard just last month and that’s not the first close call for her house. She said the cause of a problem is a 35-mph curve that people often speed right through. When people speed on that curve, it’s easy to imagine what can happen next: an accident.
Chandler said there used to be a tree known as the Ouch Tree along the road surrounded by white crosses, each representing a car accident-associated death.
“So many people speed on this curve,” she said. “The number of times I’ve had to call 911 and tell them about an accident is astounding.”
C.R. 314 has seen some love over the years, but Chandler said until more attention is given to the road, she fears it will continue to be an accident-trap. She said shoulder barriers or guard rails would go a long way to help people on that road.
Smith said the county is aware of the problems that road faces and he said in an ideal world, all of the county’s road projects are funded and fixed. He said much like C.R. 315C, he hopes C.R. 314 gets its due. It will be up to FDOT, Senate appropriations and the Clay County Board of County Commissioners.
“I ask myself every day why they haven’t come out and put guard rails up?” Chandler said. “It would save [the Clay County Sheriff’s Office] a lot of trouble and it would certainly save a lot of lives.
“That’s what’s important, right?”