The damaged, 1.4-mile segment of State Road A1A at the south end of Flagler Beach, closed since Hurricane Matthew ravaged it, will reopen to vehicle traffic as a two-lane road in three to four months, officials said today. The road will reopen as an emergency fix.
The nature of a more permanent fix has yet to be determined, and is expected to take much longer as it is negotiated between local, state and federal officials, although Sen. Bill Nelson, visiting Flagler Beach this morning, made one thing clear: wither 75 or 90 percent of the cost of the permanent fix will be borne by the federal government. The Florida Department of Transportation will pay for the temporary fix, with the first emergency contract already assigned to a Volusia company.
A1A’s reopening will be a boon to several businesses along that stretch of road. The businesses were not substantially damaged by the storm. But the road closure is a recurring devastation to their bottom line, as they have been robbed of frontage traffic and forced to draw their customers through Central Avenue, digging out makeshift back alleys and entrances and erecting signs to catch people’s attention. The pending reopening of the road will also be a relief to residents along Central Avenue, who are used to their street being lightly trafficked.
The news of A1A’s reopening, which coincided with today’s reopening of the city’s beaches, was almost lost in the din of a visit by Nelson to Flagler Beach, both to view the damage and to speak to local officials, residents and media about what the federal government is prepared to do. (A more detailed story about Nelson’s visit will follow later this afternoon.)
“First 3,000 feet coming north is already in emergency repairs and already under contract,” Flagler Beach City Commissioner Rick Belhumeur said this morning, referring to the southernmost segment of A1A’s damaged portion. “That’s’ already being worked on. They’re doing the same thing they did on the north end,” meaning a short segment that had closed the northern portion of A1A in Flagler Beach, “filling in what was there, and it will be the same roadway in the same spot.
Those 3,000 feet means the repaired road will go up to South 17th Street by the end of the month.
“Now, north of that is where they’re going to have to shift the road over because there’s more road damage through that portion,” Belhumeur said. “They’re going to shift it over and use up some of the right of way, the sidewalk and so on, just so they can get the traffic through. They’re hoping within 90 days.”
Private properties will not be affected. “They’re going to gobble up every bit of right-of-way they can use,” Belhumeur said. (In an earlier version of the story, Belhumeur had said the road would go right up to the porch seating at Oceanside Restaurant. In fact, that segment of road falls within the 3,000 feet fix, so the right-of-way area ion front of Oceanside won’t be devoured, leaving the current buffer between road and restaurant in place.)
Faith al-Khatib, the county engineer, who was also in Flagler Beach this morning, confirmed Belhumeur’s summary, with more details.
Halifax Paving got the emergency contract and has started back-filling the road at the north end of town. That repair will also be the permanent fix. In a few days, the south end of the road’s emergency-repairs contract will be awarded.
The two driving lanes that will be open to thru traffic in the 1.4-mile stretch of road at the south end will be 10 feet wide each, instead of the usual 12 feet. The speed limit will be lowered to 25 mph, “within three to four months, while they are working on a permanent fix, getting with the community, making sure what the community wants and based on that coming up with a more final fix.”
The road will be narrow. It will be paralleled by barrier walls on the east side.
“For engineering, there are no issues,” al-Khatib said of the weight of the traffic on what’s left of A1A. “Engineering, it’s going to be a good fix,” with no further danger of collapse—absent additional severe storms this winter.