Fifty people turned out Tuesday evening to hear about road closures, lane closures, detours and the length of inconveniences that will parallel construction of the $9 million Matanzas Woods Parkway interchage with I-95 and the $5.7 million extension and four-laning of Old Kings Road from Forest Grove Drive to Matanzas Woods Parkway starting this summer.
There’ll be plenty of construction activity in that area: three independent but related projects. A third project, not discussed Tuesday evening, is the two-lane extension of Palm Harbor Parkway to Matanzas Woods Parkway. That six-month project will also start in June. But as with the Old Kings Road extension, it will have minimal impact on traffic during construction, because most of the activity will take place in the woods or in places not open to traffic at the moment.
In sum, the impacts of the various construction projects on residents and drivers will be relatively limited (some noise and the two months of road closure at the Matanzas Woods overpass aside. When it’s all done, traffic is expected to flow more smoothly, with some sharp angles and dead ends giving way to more continuous and logically directed traffic.
While the Palm Harbor extension will take six months, both the other projects are expected to take a year, starting with a hard date: On June 5, at 7 p.m., the Matanzas Woods Parkway overpass at I-95 will be entirely closed to traffic, and will remain closed until Aug. 9, so the “profile” of the road—a technical term that means the fill and mound on which it’s built can be raised appropriately to match with the requirements of the diamond-shaped interchange. That interchage will eventually be known as Exit 294. It’s the third, but possibly not the last, Palm Coast exit: the city’s long-range plans envisioned exits at the levels of Whiteview Parkway and Royal Palms Parkway as well. But that’s in the distant future.
The road-closure segment of construction coincides with the two months of summer break for the school district in general, but more particularly for nearby Matanzas High School. School resumes on Aug. 24. The Aug. 9 target date to end the road closure gives the contractors a little breathing room should the road-raising not be finished by then. Until then, drivers coming south into Palm Coast from the west will have to make a long loop south on Belle Terre Parkway , across Palm Coast Parkway and back up Old Kings Road to get into the F and C Sections. And vice versa for drivers going the other way.
When the bridge itself reopens to traffic in early August, there will still be lane closures on Matanzas Woods Parkway and on I-95 in that area, reducing traffic flow but not closing it. The lane closures will coincide with off-peak hours, said Buckley Williams of England-Thims and Miller, the engineering company overseeing the interchange project.
Also coinciding with the Matanzas Woods interchange construction: The extension of Old Kings Road, a four-laning project that will transform the road to Matanzas Woods Parkway from Forrest Grove Drive. “This project is mostly outside of traffic, it’s mostly in the woods,” Williams said. It will be completed early fall of 2016. The result will be a divided highway with sidewalks. That extension’s aim is to create an arterial bypass, reducing traffic impacts on Matanzas High School.
Matanzas Woods Parkway itself will remain a two-lane road, which is in Flagler County’s jurisdiction. Once the two projects are completed, the county will turn the road over to Palm Coast’s jurisdiction. The city has plans to four-lane Matanzas Woods Parkway, but not for several years.
There will be no noise abatements around the new interchange. “I just find that difficult to believe,” one resident said, referring not to the construction noise, but to the noise that will be generated when the project is completed, and fewer barriers such as woods will stand in the way of what’s expected to be increased traffic.
There will be a signal at Old Kings Road and Matanzas Woods Parkway as part of the extension project. There are no immediate expectations of commercial developments in the immediate proximity of the new interchage for now, County Engineer Faith Alkhatib said, but she noted that once construction is completed the result might attract uch businesses as gas stations or restaurants.
Palm Coast Parkway construction, incidentally, will be completed by this fall. And Palm Coast is in the design phase for the four-laning of the northern portion of Old Kings Road, merging with what will be the new portion of the Old Kings Road extension. But funding for that project has not been secured yet.
There were about a dozen questions from residents at the Tuesday evening at the Palm Coast Community Center. Most questions focused on specific technicalities, dates and safety measures surrounding the project. One question about where the construction equipment will be staged—or located when not at the construction site—was not answered: Williams said that plan is still in the works.
“This is such a huge statement about Palm Coast and Flagler County that I wish more residents would come to these meetings, because this is a big deal,” David Alfin, the Realtor, who was in the audience, said after the meeting. “It shows the cooperation between the county, the city, the federal government and the state to encourage the future development of Palm Coast and Flagler County, and I think there’ll be future projects as well beyond this one.”
Just one person took advantage of the comment cards left for the public: “Hurry,” the person said, “this should have been done years ago.”