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U.S. 17 work will increase Clay County traffic

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Updated: 7/23/2013 11:56 pm
ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- Rush hour in Orange Park has become a nightmare for residents like Jeff Bryan.

"We don't do 17 or Blanding in the morning before 10. It's just crazy."

Over the past decade, Clay County has grown tremendously, but nearly 60 percent of the residents still work in other counties. As a result, congestion along Blanding Blvd. and US 17 has become more and more of a headache.

"We have only 8,400 residents in the town of Orange Park," said Town Clerk Sarah Campbell, "but more than 70,000 vehicles pass through our town every day."

Campbell says commuters have been good for business, but a headache for residents.

"It gives us great opportunity for growth and economic development in our community, but it is the number one complaint that we face."

Since October 2010, the Florida Department of Transportation has been working on a $64.5 million project along I295 and Blanding to help alleviate congestion, but the project has forced more traffic to divert to US 17.

On Monday, it too will become a work zone, as the department embarks on a $4.9 million project to add two northbound lanes from south of Wells Road to I295.

"We need it," says Campbell. "We struggle for ways to find a solution to this problem short of building some sort of flyover or something."

And the changes for residents doesn't stop there.

Earlier this month, the town council approved a nearly $14 million, five-year Capital Improvement Plan for replacement and repairs to streets, signage, water and sewer systems, parks, public facilities, emergency response vehicles and gear, and more.

"It's a plan of our priorities for the community and areas of infrastructure that need to be improved. The first year we're looking at about $3 million worth of improvements," said Campbell.

While the changes mean growing pains for the community surrounded by growth, Campbell says the end result will be a better quality of life for drivers and residents.

"It will go on for a long time, but the goal is to alleviate traffic in the long term."

According to an FDOT spokesperson, the project at Blanding and I-295 is on schedule and expected to wrap in early 2014.

The project along U.S. 17 will kick off on Monday, July 29 and is expected to wrap in fall of 2014.

The Town of Orange Park is expected to adopt the Capital Improvement Plan as part of its budget in September.
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