Construction on the roundabout at U.S. 1 and Old Dixie Highway will begin next month–with actual visible construction starting likely on Jan. 7–and stretch over 15 months, the Florida Department of Transportation told county officials in recent meetings and residents neighboring the project through flyers.
The project is now projected to cost $4.1 million, up from $2.9 million just last January when the department unveiled plans at a meeting of Flagler residents near the project grounds.
Residents at that meeting and another unveiling in August of a planned roundabout at Matanzas Woods Parkway and U.S. 1 have been largely opposed to roundabouts. But transportation departments in Florida and other states are increasingly building roundabouts as a safer alternative to crash-prone intersections. Evidence points to dramatic declines in t-bone crashes and fatal crashes at intersections where roundabouts replace are built.
The Old Dixie-U.S.1 intersection is among the most dangerous in the county, with six fatalities in 2016 alone and the most recent serious crash, last September, sending three motorists to the hospital. The intersection is also the end point for County Road 325, which intersects with Old Dixie Highway just before U.S. 1, adding to drivers’ potential confusion.
Sheriff Rick Staly pressured transportation officials for safety improvements at the intersection, as did other officials, though none locally explicitly favored the roundabout option, hewing closer to the addition of traffic lights or the re-engineering of the intersection. Opposition to the transportation department’s plans waned somewhat since initial backlashes, and the sheriff himself said he would not second-guess the department’s approach.
The roundabout at Old Dixie and U.S. 1 will be the first on any major roadway in the county or in any of its cities. Palm Coast has a few roundabouts in Town Center, but either in a parking lot or on relatively lightly traveled Town Center Boulevard and Central Avenue. The roundabouts have been the scene of light crashes, but no serious crashes, and no recorded fatality since Town Center opened well over a decade ago ago.
At Old Dixie Highway, “the project is going to be done in phases,” County Engineer Faith al-Khatib said today. “Sometimes they’re going to be having detours, yes.” The transportation department says the project will be carried out in four phases, so U.S. 1 itself will never be shut down. But speed limits there will be reduced from the current 65 mph.
“At various times during construction, drivers can expect lane shifts, changing traffic patterns and detours on U.S. 1 and Old Dixie Highway,” the flier the transportation department has been disseminating to residents since last week cautions. “Electronic message boards and other signage will be in place to assist drivers.” Work may take place during the day or night.
The project was awarded to P & S Paving of Daytona Beach, the company that resurfaces Palm Coast’s roads and rebuilt the Bulldog Drive‘s entrance into Town Center. The flier describes the project’s scope. “The roundabout will accommodate two travel lanes on northbound U.S. 1 and will include a bypass lane for southbound U.S. 1 traffic traveling through the intersection,” it states. “Both Old Dixie Highway and C.R. 325 will connect directly to U.S. 1. The project also includes drainage improvements, landscaping in the center of the roundabout and new lighting, as well as signing and pavement markings.”
Residents will see construction activity along a 1.4-mile stretch that includes milling and resurfacing, road-base work, shoulder work, drainage improvements, new lighting and highway signs and other construction.
Once construction is completed, drivers will be required to slow down to 25 mph to take the roundabout. Markings on the road will guide drivers to the appropriate lanes.
“It’s going to be after the first of the year, it’s early January, it could be right around the 7th is what we’re looking at,” Steve Olsen, the transportation department’s spokesperson, said. Message boards may go up sooner. “The notice to proceed is December, but the actual work will probably start after the first of the year. Once notice to proceed has been issued, the actual clock for the contractor is ticking.” The contractor has just over 400 days to finish the work.