State Road 20 project forges on


Road construction has turned State Road 20 through Hawthorne into a somewhat chaotic scene as workers move forward with widening a 6.2-mile section to four lanes.

ROB C. WITZEL/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, December 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 30, 2003 at 10:02 p.m.
Are we there yet, children often ask as they set out on a road trip. Some motorists traveling between Gainesville and Hawthorne might wonder the same thing about the project to four-lane State Road 20.
Not yet, children and motorists.
But construction of the Florida Department of Transportation's $19.33 million road project now is at its midpoint. The 6.2-mile widening of SR 20 from County Road 325 - the road to Cross Creek - to just east of U.S. 301 in Hawthorne that began in August 2002 is scheduled to be completed in February of 2005.
"We were given an additional 270 days after the redesign of the overpass at 301," said Chip Skinner, spokesman for the four-laning project.
After some rain delays during the summer, he said, the recent dry weather has helped keep the project progressing pretty much on schedule. The last few weeks have seen a flurry of work at the U.S. 301 overpass in Hawthorne, including the installation of traffic signals on either end of the bridge.
"They're temporary signals for traffic control so we don't have a lot of congestion during work on the overpass," Skinner said. "They'll be removed when the construction is finished."
Skinner said the traffic signals probably will go into operation sometime in December.
The four-laning is designed to make SR 20 part of a system of high-speed roadways that eventually will crisscross Florida east to west and north to south, he said. When finished in several years, SR 20 will be four-laned from Gainesville to Palatka.
While one crew works on the leg heading east into Hawthorne, another crew on the Palatka end is going a few miles west. It's something like the building of the transcontinental railroad in the 19th century, as separate crews working east and west met in Promontory Point, Utah, to connect the line.
Ultimately SR 20 will be united in Interlachen. Skinner said the next phase of the four-laning project will cover the roughly 12 miles from Hawthorne to Interlachen.
The construction schedule for that phase cannot yet be estimated, he said, because of pending litigation between some Interlachen businesses and the Florida Department of Transportation.
Originally the overpass in Hawthorne was to have been closed during construction, with eastbound and westbound traffic rerouted north and south onto 301 and forced to make U-turns to get back onto SR 20. The redesign that extended the project was to address the construction issues to keep at least one lane of the overpass bridge open, Skinner said, and not the final design of the overpass.
"The configuration of the overpass won't change much," he said. "We'll be raising the new bridge a little bit to allow better clearance for semi-trucks. And it will have a pedestrian walkway, similar to the one on NW 23rd Avenue over Interstate 75 near Santa Fe Community College."
The existing overpass will be rebuilt to handle the westbound traffic, while a new bridge for eastbound traffic will be built to the south of it.
West of Hawthorne, work is nearing the asphalt stage in some sections of what eventually will be the westbound lanes.
The bridge at Lochloosa Creek near Grove Park - delayed awhile when the support pilings hit a bed of rock - now is almost complete.
"Once the ramps are built to handle the traffic at the 301 overpass, the new section should be open to (two-way) traffic in one to two months, maybe late December or January," Skinner said.
Bob Arndorfer can be reached at 374-5042 or arndorb@gvillesun.com.

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