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Old Kings Road Reopens, Speeding Past History

| May 1, 2010

Old Kings Road History

A long way from its first version in the 1760s. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon led his weekly memo to the mayor and city council members with the news on Friday: “Old Kings Road will open at 5:00 p.m. today. I think you will agree that it looks great.”

A version of that memo, oral or written, has been going around for almost three centuries, which is as long as Old Kings Road has been around, and repeatedly rebuilt, repaved, enlarged and even shifted from place to place. Friday’s memo capped the latest re-building of the road. This time it was the $6.3 million four-laning of a 1.5-mile stretch from Town Center Boulevard south to State Road 100. The segment had been closed since Feb. 16, 2009.

The south entrance to Palm Coast on Old Kings Road, March 1979. (Courtesy of the Flagler County Historyical Society)

On Saturday, traffic was light but speeds on the broad more brisk than the posted 40 mph speed limit (down from pre-construction 45, which already seemed a crawl on the circuit), as if drivers were more than ready to get on with it. The asphalt looked a shiny black, the median lined with seven to eight-feet trees (if anyone knows what kind of trees they are, please let us know in the comments) and toddler palms still looking more like beheaded stick figures than trees.

Utility poles have all been replanted, but they’re concrete now, and their continued existence along the road signals that underground utility lines will have to wait for another generation of construction there. At a few points along the enlarged road, the beginnings of side-roads shoot off, but to nowhere for the moment: they’re markers of future developments. Those may be a while. At the southernmost end of the enlarged road, the Kings Pointe commercial development remains a vast, green land of lots begging for takers. But across the street the new car wash was busier than some of Detroit’s assembly lines of late.

The length of the new road is paralleled, for the first time, by a wide concrete sidewalk (to call it handsome would be stretching things a bit, but as sidewalks go, it does have a spotless je-ne-sais-quoi quality) and an equally wide, boldly marked bike lane on the road itself.

What’s missing from the new segment, besides the intimacy of a two-lane country road, is the close, green warmth of the trees that used to hug and shade the road. That closeness has been replaced by clearings, retention ponds and, most jarring of all, a longish segment toward the latter, southern part of the road that chugs unobstructed along I-95. That segment was rerouted closer to the superhighway (see the areal image) to accommodate the future emplacement of a Wal Mart on the eastern side of the road. It’s why the road had to be closed, rather than traffic-jiggered all those months. That’s also the point where you may realize that any notion of Old Kings Road as it once was is as buried under the new asphalt and concrete as old Seminole and settler amulets.

Bill Ryan. (© FlaglerLive)

Old Kings Road, or The Kings Road, as its ancestor was known, is one of the oldest roads in North America, and was the very first road into Florida before the days of I-95 or U.S. Route 1 or even the days when such a thing as a state of Florida existed.

“This was the route of hopeful settlers, rich plantations, men seeking wealth in the live oak trade, armies, angry Indians, and famous soldiers,” wrote Bill Ryan, the historian and member of the Flagler County Historical Society, in The Search for Old Kings Road, the most current history on the old road. “It is now a newly paved road with bridges and overpasses. New residents do not know of its history.”

It was also the route of many memories.

Butch Malo Remembers Hiking Old Kings Road in 1976[media id=16 width=250 height=100]

Butch Malo, who owns Advanced Cable, a local cable system on the barrier island, remembers hiking Old Kings Road from New Smyrna Beach to St. Augustine as the Boy Scout troop master of Ormond Beach’s Troop 74, along with some 100 Boy Scouts from around the region. They hiked, camped, cut through brush, walked on what remained of the road’s cobble-stone sections. “You could tell some of the areas through the woods that was still undisturbed, you could still tell there was trails and areas when it was still like it from back then,” when Palm Coast didn’t yet exist.

The four-laning of the road is the latest move away from its history, Malo says. “It’s a shame to see progress. I think we regress a little bit when progress takes over some of our history.”

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4 Responses for “Old Kings Road Reopens, Speeding Past History”

  1. Billy Concerned says:

    As someone who travels throughout Palm Coast and Flagler County extensively on a daily basis, I too am baffled by the ridiculously slow 40mph speed limit on this new multi lane highway. It’s even slower than the twisty turny 2-lane section of old Kings just to the north. It makes no sense.

    I certainly can understand that someday there may be 25,000 cars a day making their way in bumper to bumper traffic, but right now traffic is very light, there are virtually no intersecting roads or driveways, and 40 is just absurdly slow for this road.

    I also question all the 25mph zones on the outskirts of the town center roads. It’s absurd and even the LEO’s travel at a more reasonable 35-40mph on these roads. It’s as though the signs are a big joke.

    The good news is I don’t think they are using these bogus speed limits to give out tickets (yet). But my own informal driving observations indicate that the 80th percentile measurement was not used in coming up with these speed limits. (80th percentile means the speed limit is determined by measuring what the speed of the majority (80%) of people drive on a given road).

    I think the 25mph roads should be at least 35mph (maybe even 45mph in certain spots), and Old Kings should be 55mph on the entire length. I am not advocating speeding, I simply want the limits to reflect real world driving so I don’t wind up with a pointless ticket someday.

    I’m not sure how or even if something like this can be fixed, but I doubt I’m the only one who has noticed it.

  2. Rob Sabatino says:

    The speed limits in town center are for all of the proposed development from five years ago – all of which dried up with the recession. The “City” of Palm Coast better wise up and rethink what they are doing with that area or the weeds will outnumber the users very quickly (like it doesn’t already). How about an ampitheater there like they have in Tampa and get some entertainment to come in. The “City” wants to grow businesses, why not cater to the people who will use it – the 30 to 50 year olds who have to drive to Orlando and Jax for something to do, not the geriatric set who got that atrocious tennis center built for millions and it doesn’t get used but a couple of hours per day. Forget about these old timers who came here to retire, complain about taxes and not add to the tax base. Younger people are more willing to spend their money and would do so in the “City” with more to do not those who will be ultimately be flown back to NY for their final burial, . . . I mean disposition.

  3. NortonSmitty says:

    I’d be willing to bet the speed limits are a reflection of the Traffic Engineering firms liability concerns. Just like every traffic light has a red left turn arrow regardless of how busy the intersection because they’re afraid of getting sued every accident for “unsafe design”.

  4. Billy Concerned says:

    I agree, in the low traffic evening and night hours especially there are intersections all over town with red left turn arrows that make you wait through an entire cycle change even when there is no oncoming traffic for as far as the eye can see.

    I have personally experienced ridiculously long wait times at Belle Terre turning onto Royal Palms, and at Palm Coast Parkway turning onto the I-95 southbound on-ramp and at Palm Coast Parkway turning onto Old Kings Road heading south. I know there are others but I have wasted at least 60 minutes of my life over the last year at these specific intersections waiting for the light to change – with no oncoming traffic anywhere in sight and a red left turn arrow looking at me.

    A regular solid green light would give me, a driver with decades of driving experience and never an accident or ticket, the ability to make my own choice and to go when it is safe to do so. But the powers that be have decided that because some people are not capable of understanding how a green yield light works that all of us have to suffer. I hope I’m not painting a picture of flying through town here, that’s not what I’m saying at all. But when it’s clear why should I have to wait 5 minutes for a green arrow to cycle back around all the while watching hundreds of perfectly safe opportunities to turn pass me by. In fact, for the last several months I have been putting my car in park while at these intersections and using the time to stretch or work on paperwork. Before the hot temperatures came along I was shutting the car off completely in between light changes. I don’t recall doing this in any other cities, so it’s something going on with Palm Coast. I can understand this during the busy traffic congestion during the day, but when nothing’s coming for miles? I know where all the red light cameras are and it’s tempting sometimes to just go, but then they are turning me into a criminal so I just sit there.

    I also agree about the speed limits around town center being set based on growth that never happened and still hasn’t happened. So there might be a lot of traffic soon on Friday nights by the new movie theatre where 25mph is appropriate. But what about the other 150+ hours in the week when there’s nobody even driving out there? 25? Really?

    And what about the new Old Kings Road? Even our more cautious drivers will feel like the 40mph speed limit is absurdly slow for this new multilane road with grass median.

    I can only complain because I don’t know what to do to fix these issues.

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