The Clay County Board of Commissioners approved a $130 million bond project that will be used to expand lanes and alleviate traffic across multiple roads in the county.
“Many of our roads are congested,” said District 1 County Commissioner Mike Cella. “With this bonding issue, we’re trying to take that on with one large swipe at it rather than do it sort of piecemeal as we go along.”
Lanes will be added to four roads in Clay County. Cella said the first priority is adding two additional lanes to County Road 218 that runs through Middleburg, bringing the total number of lanes to six.
The road runs east toward Blanding Boulevard, which is currently undergoing a widening project in Clay County as well.
“In the next couple years, that whole area will look a little different and hopefully move the traffic so folks aren’t sitting on Blanding so long,” Cella said.
Other road projects are concentrated toward Green Cove Springs, where the county has seen a lot of its population growth in recent years.
“We have several roads, which are what we call deficient,” Cella said. “In other words, based on the usage, we’re already overusing those roads. So this additional capacity will help alleviate some of that overcrowding.
The county board has been discussing a bonding project to tackle some of the lane expansions since early last year. As the former chairman of the board, Cella said his goal was to make sure roads saw improvements.
“There have been people that aren’t happy about us moving in this direction, but I think we would fail in our responsibilities to taxpayers and residents if we didn’t move in this direction and get this done as quickly as possible.
The six road projects will cost the county roughly $125 million, leaving around $5 million for additional road projects or potential issues with the current projects on the table.
Cella said the county will pay for the $8.3 million annual bond repayment with its 1% infrastructure sales tax, which nets the county around $23 million per year.
Other road expansions involving the bonding project are:
- Connecting U.S. Highway 17 through County Road 315 to the First Coast Expressway, called the First Coast Connector.
- Adding a lane to Sandridge Road from Henley Road to County Road 209.
- Adding a lane to County Road 209 from Sandridge Road to County Road 315B.
- Adding two lanes to County Road 220 from Baxley Road to Henley Road.
- Adding two lanes to County Road 209 from County Road 315B to U.S. Highway 17.
With the expansions, some residents could be concerned about even more slowdowns on already congested roads dealing with construction.
“There’s no question we’re concerned about that,” Cella said. “However, at this point, we don’t see any other way to be able to play catch up. And that’s really what we’re doing. The previous boards of the past, 10 to 12 years [ago], as we were coming out of the recessions didn’t have the opportunity to raise the money to be able to go out and do the things that we can do now with a better economy.”
Cella also said Clay County stores $5 million per year for road resurfacing and road drainage improvements. In order to get all of the failing roads resurfaced, the County would need around $80 million.
“We're attacking it $5 million a clip and hopefully in the future, [with] our one-cent sales tax and gas taxes and impact fees, we’ll be able to spend more to be able to take a look at those existing roads that need repaving,” Cella said.
The county can finalized the bonding project at its Feb. 25 commission meeting to start selling the bonds in early March. The plan was approved 4-1, with District 4 Commissioner Gavin Rollins the lone 'nay' vote.
Cella said residents can expect to start seeing the changes to the roads in the next two to three years.
Sky Lebron can be reached at email@example.com, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.