Building a two-lane bypass around Bunnell has been talked about for 18 years. On Monday, the Flagler County Commission cleared the way for construction to begin next summer. All told, the project will cost upwards of $15 million.
“This is really a big deal for the county. This is an economic boon to the county,” County Commission Chairman Greg Hansen said. “This is some more housing for the county. This is a lot of things that we want to get done.”
The road will provide a loop access from State Road 100 and to U.S. 1, also providing an alternative route in case of an emergency in Bunnell. It will be low-frills: 12-foot lanes, no beautification, no bike lanes, an 8-foot shoulder, 5 feet of it paved, a five-foot sidewalk only on the east side of the road, a wildlife fence, and the usual stormwater ponds. Commissioner Andy Dance thought the sidewalk seemed narrow for a connector road. Al-Khatib didn’t disagree, but that’s the downside of a design sitting on a shelf for so long. She described it as a local roadway.
In essence, the road will not look significantly different than the Commerce Parkway that covers a part of the stretch at the moment. It’ll be longer.
“It’s a regional project and there is a lot of benefit not only for the city of Bunnell, but also for Flagler County,” County Engineer Faith al-Khatib said. “We are ready to move forward. We are anticipating to start construction sometime in July-August, it depends on the design and the permits we can get from the City of Bunnell.”
There is no further land acquisition necessary for the right of way.
Bunnell previously spent $2 million on an environmental assessment and the design, which, once completed, has been sitting on a shelf for five years. The road construction is currently projected to cost $11 million. The city and the county got $6.8 million in a legislative appropriation earlier this year.
That left quite a shortfall. The county threw in $3.1 million in transportation impact fee revenue. “Working with the city of Bunnell closely, they came up with $1 million additional to fill in the gap to get the project done,” al-Khatib said. An additional $3.5 million in utility, water and sewer services are not part of the transportation project. That will be paid out of Bunnell’s utility funds.
The county’s impact fee fund will be wiped out once the project is funded.
Meanwhile the design must be updated. It will be, by the same design team, for $433,000. And construction costs are “going up on a monthly basis,” al-Khatib said. Once the project is advertised for a contractor, the cost may well be significantly higher than it is today.
“We’ve identified certain needs for the county, so what I see is as important for this roadway as it opens up,” Commissioner Andy Dance said, “it’s developable areas for industrial and commercial property that’ll be attractive to people because of its proximity to government services, and now the Sheriff’s Office’s Operation Center, and access to U.S. 1 and 100.”
Bunnell’s city hall and a new south-side library will also be built along the road, with the existing Government Services Building, the courthouse and the Emergency Operations Center all within sight. The land on both sides of the eventual road is currently zoned industrial.
Industrial development has been a pronounced need in the county, to balance its reliance on residential development’s tax revenue. The zoning may be changed “downward,” however, meaning that it could be rezoned for commercial or residential uses. The road will also be going through wetlands, which may not be built on.
About 12 years ago, Bunnell was resistant to the road as proposed by the state Department of Transportation at the time, fearing that it would divert too much traffic from downtown Bunnell. That’s no longer a concern.
“I don’t think it will change the character of the city,” Dance said. “When this first came up there wasn’t even a Grand Reserve. I think some of the patterns have changed and growth has occurred to the point where there’s plenty of downtown traffic and I don’t know that this will change the character.” Grand Reserve is the single largest residential development in Bunnell, fronting on both 100 and U.S. 1.