FDOT unveils tentative area road projects for 2014-18


The intersection of SW 8th Avenue and SW 122nd Street Wednesday, November 14, 2012.

Doug Finger/Staff Photographer
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 5:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 5:58 p.m.

The Florida Department of Transportation has released a tentative five-year work program for District 2, which includes Alachua County, and is seeking residents' input on the projects scheduled for fiscal years 2014 through 2018.

The tentative plan, released this week, lists 61 projects for Alachua County, ranging from resurfacing stretches of Interstate 75 to funding Regional Transit System routes and facilities.

The five-year work program is developed on a rolling basis through annual updates.

All seven FDOT districts spend July through December of each year developing a new tentative plan of transportation projects for which they can allocate funding, and the Legislature then evaluates and adopts the plans by the following July, said James Bennett, FDOT District 2 urban transportation development manager.

To develop the Alachua County portion of the current tentative work program, FDOT District 2 staff worked with the County Commission and Gainesville Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization to identify priority projects for funding, Bennett said. Both entities can request revisions to the plan before the FDOT finalizes it at the end of December.

The commission evaluates potential projects for the county's unincorporated areas and smaller municipalities that are outside the MTPO's jurisdiction. Both the County Commission and Gainesville City Commission sit on the MTPO board.

The Legislature will adopt the final version of the five-year work program in July 2013 after a spring public hearing, Bennett said.

Most of the Alachua County projects on the tentative 2014-2018 program are slated for development between 2014 and 2016, said Marlie Sanderson, the MTPO's staff director and North Central Florida Regional Planning Council's director of Transportation Planning.

"When you get five years out, it's kind of hard to get your finger on projects and money, so that's why the projects tend to be frontloaded," he said.

The MTPO is focused on developing a multi-modal transportation system, so it has included plans for bicycle paths and sidewalks along with road development in the priority projects it submits to the FDOT for consideration every year, Sanderson said.

Two bicycle and pedestrian paths slated for construction in 2015 on the University of Florida campus are part of a key multi-modal effort known as the Archer Braid Trail, a bicycle path that eventually will link the city of Archer to UF and beyond.

These campus greenways will run from Gale Lemerand Drive to Archer Road and Southwest 34th Street, respectively. The Archer Road path will receive about $1 million for the 2015 construction work from the FDOT, while the 34th Street path will get about $1.5 million, according to the tentative work program.

A primary transportation issue in the Gainesville community has been how to address traffic congestion around UF, and the RTS bus system has helped reduce that problem, Sanderson said. These new bicycle paths also will help alleviate congestion by providing students and faculty with an incentive to bike to campus.

Another project in the program scheduled for construction in 2015 is the creation of a new road at Southwest Eighth Avenue that will run from Southwest 143rd Street to Southwest 122nd Street. The FDOT will provide about $2.4 million to build the new road, which will cover about 2.4 miles, Alachua County Transportation Planning Manager Jeffrey Hays said.

The county has pledged matching funds for the project as part of a grant program, he said. The new road is expected to help relieve congestion on nearby Newberry Road.

"That road has actually been one of our top new road-type capacity projects," he said.

The work program lists the money FDOT will allocate for specific projects, but the total costs of those projects could be higher with money coming from local governments and other sources as well.

Some county projects listed on the 2014-2018 tentative program are new additions, while others have been listed for the past few years and are simply moving closer to their planned construction dates.

The Gainesville MTPO and Alachua County Commission might request funding for new projects or tweak plans for projects that were on an earlier edition of the work program in terms of the funding or construction work needed, Hays said.

County residents can offer their input on the work program and transportation plans for Alachua County by sending comments electronically at the FDOT's program-specific website, www.d2wpph.com. They also can find information on scheduled meetings and view the Alachua County projects included in the tentative plan on that website.

A public workshop is scheduled to be held at 3 p.m. on Nov. 29 at the District 2 office at 1109 South Marion Ave. in Lake City, which will be an open forum where residents can ask questions and offer their perspectives on the planned projects for their areas.

"It's really an opportunity for the public to see the projects the Department of Transportation plans to implement over the next five years," Bennett said.

Residents also can attend the MTPO meeting at 3 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Alachua County Administration Building, 12 SE First St., where the organization will review the tentative program and make any last-minute requests for changes, Sanderson said.

Sanderson invited county residents interested in offering their comments to call him at his office at 955-2200.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com.

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