Like the beach renourishment project that will also start this year, at the other end of the county, the concept of a new Bunnell road from State Road 100 to U.S. 1 has been talked in one form or another about for 20 years. It’s been debated, opposed, shifted, embraced and finally funded.
Monday, it’ll clear its last hurdle when the County Commission approves a $9.5 million contract with P&S Paving to build the 1.7-mile, two-lane road going south from Commerce Parkway, past the Sheriff’s Operations Center and the future sites of the south branch of the Flagler County Public Library and Bunnell’s City Hall. The project is expected to take between 18 months and two years.
Just don’t call it a “bypass” anymore, as a previous version with a more northwesterly route had been called. “It’s going to become what I call the City Center,” City Manager Alvin Jackson said. “I won’t say it’ll shift the downtown heart but I would say that it will become the center for commercial, retail, and basically have some industrial at the end of Commerce Parkway, more towards U.S. 1.” That eastern part of Bunnell is also expected to have a residential component.
The $9.5 million contract is for the road alone. An additional $5 million is allocated between Bunnell and county sources to cover parts of the construction costs plus design of the road and the water and wastewater utility that will be a necessary part of the project, to accommodate future growth.
Construction will largely be out of sight, since the entirety of that land past the Sheriff’s Office is vacant woodland. With some curves around wetlands, the road will connect with U.S. 1 south of the Dollar General store. It won’t be called a bypass, at least not officially. Its clunkier name, for now, is almost as long as the future road: Flagler Central Commerce Parkway Connector–Bunnell, though it won’t stick.
Bunnell secured $6.8 million of the needed money in the 2022 legislative session, money that will be channeled through the Florida Department of Transportation, which has been the leading champion of the bypass all along, at times–in 2010 especially–against fierce resistance from Palm Coast, Bunnell and the local business community, which partly explains the long delay.
Bunnell is contributing $1 million to update the original design of the road, using transportation impact fees, the one-time fees levied on new construction to defray the “impact” of growth on infrastructure. So property taxpayers are not directly shouldering that burden, though obviously buyers of new homes are paying for it as part of their housing cost. Nor are they directly shouldering that of the additional $3.5 million Bunnell is contributing out of its water and sewer utility funds, though just as obviously, all Bunnell water and sewer customers are paying for that through their monthly bills.
The water and sewer money is necessary, Jackson said, because all water and sewer lines must be built beneath the road during initial construction, so as not to tear up the roads in the future. “So it’s important for us to go ahead and include the utilities and then they build a road on top of utilities,” he said. But four-laning the parkway is not part of future plans: “significant amount of wetlands,” Jackson said, will prevent that. The city will be responsible for designing street lighting and future maintenance of the road.
Four companies filed bis–Halifax Paving ($10.18 million), P&S ($9.46 million), Southern Development and Construction ($11.1 million) and Southland Construction ($11.37 million).
“It’s a great milestone and it’s truly a project when we talk about entities, private public partnerships, this is a perfect example of that,” Jackson said, citing the many levels of government that cooperated, along with the county and city engineers. “It’s exciting to finally see this come through. From my understanding it’s been like 20 years in the making.”
“It is truly going to be epic economic boost for Bunnell,” he continued. “It has become a catalyst for what I call the economic energy for Bunnell. Folks already knocking on the doors, buying land. Originally we thought it would be the city’s industrial boost, industrial and and manufacturing. It is looking like it’s going to become what I call the City Center.”
Bunnell’s enthusiasm for the road wasn’t always so. In 2010, the Department of Transportation was proposing a bypass from U.S. 1 to State Road 100, but from the north: it would have cut through from near County Road 13 at U.S. 1, ostensibly to alleviate expected traffic from major new developments that Palm Coast had approved west of U.S. 1 (developments that are only now beginning to become active).
Then-Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon was comparing the proposed road to a “stake through Bunnell’s heart.” The road was also opposed by the chamber of commerce at the time and by Bunnell officials. They thought it would drain traffic away from the center of Bunnell, and hurt existing businesses there. The transportation department’s studies showed that Bunnell’s older part would not suffer, especially because of continuing growth in Palm Coast and Bunnell itself.
That particular bypass was eventually abandoned. But Bunnell had wanted a similar bypass, going south from State Road 100, as part of an industrial vision for the area. It kept pushing for that approach. And with the siting of the Sheriff’s Operations Center there, then City Hall, and in the future, the library, the road became a necessity, it won backing all around.
Almost the entirety of the land the road will cross is owned by Oare Associates of DeLand, a company whose registered agents are Elizabeth Oare Neale of Wesley Chapel and Robert Oare III of Alachua.
Meanwhile the bids for Bunnell City Hall, on Commerce Parkway near State Road 100, are going before the City Commission later this month for approval, clearing that project for construction. That will take about 18 months, Jackson said.