Get ready for some new traffic disruptions around some of Palm Coast’s busiest arteries: Old Kings Road North, just past Kings Way, and along Belle Terre Parkway from south of Buddy Taylor Middle School to Royal Palms Parkway.
The $18.3 million widening to four lanes of 1.4 miles of Old kings Road North, from Kings Way to Frontier Drive will start once additional design is completed. This will be phase two of a three-phase plan. Phase one, the widening of a 0.6-mile stretch of the road from south of Palm Coast Parkway to Kings Way, was completed in 2021. Funding for phase three, which would pay for completing the four-laning to Forest Grove Drive, has not been secured.
Once completed, phase two will have lined Old Kings Road with continuous street lighting, 8-foot-wide walking and biking paths on both sides of the road, add some turn lanes and new landscaping.
Mayor David Alfin was concerned about that stretch of Old King Road becoming a “drag strip.” But the $900,000 design plan in the works will look at adding traffic signals at some of the intersections, which would slow traffic (and aggravated drivers).
“It is a little bit of a deterrent that you have to drive past the Sheriff’s Office substation over there, you see all these cop cars parked out there,” Council member Nick Klufas said. Alfin doubted it. But speaking later on the broader scope of road projects, he said of the public: “It is important for them to know that the dollars are being carefully spent to improve the safety along the roadways.”
The $18.3 million for Old Kings Road was part of the money the city secured by leveraging the house speakership of Paul Renner, the Palm Coast Republican, to the city’s advantage. But the $900,000 design work the council approved on Tuesday is paid for with the city’s own transportation impact fees, the one-time levy developers pay to defray the impact of development on roads. No property tax revenue is being used for the projects.
Belle Terre Parkway meanwhile will see seven intersections improved with turning or deceleration lanes, enhancing road safety on a parkway that continues to regularly log serious and deadly crashes. The Belle Terre Parkway safety improvements received $4.5 million in state dollars. Here are the coming construction segments and improvements:
- At Pritchard Drive, the northbound sidewalk will be realigned, a deceleration right-turn lane will be added for northbound traffic turning onto Pritchard, and drainage will be improved.
- At Whipporwill Drive, a deceleration right-turn lane will be added for northbound traffic turning onto Whipporwill.
- At Whiteview Parkway, the sidewalk on the south side of Whiteview will be realigned and right-turn lanes will be added to Whiteview, for traffic going south and north on Belle Terre.
- At Pine Grove Drive, a deceleration and right turn-lane will be added, realigning the sidewalk. The intersection has been the scene of several crashes with fatalities. So a directional turning lane will be added to the median, so that southbound traffic making a turn onto Pine Grove will have that added protection. But traffic exiting Pine Grove will only be allowed to turn right, or north, and will no longer be able to cross the parkway to make a left turn and go south.
- At Ponce de Leon Drive, a deceleration right-turn lane will be added for northbound traffic turning onto Ponce de Leon.
- At Point Pleasant Drive, a deceleration right-turn lane will be added for northbound traffic turning onto Point Pleasant.
- At Royal Palms Parkway, one of the most congested intersections in the city, several turning lanes will be extended, pedestrian crossings will be eliminated, drainage will be improved, and traffic signals will be updated.
The improvements were recommended by the River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization as far back as 2016. Palm Coast built some of those recommendations already, like the traffic signal at Market Avenue on Belle Terre and the turning lane on East Hampton. “These are the remaining improvements from that study,” Carl Cote, the city’s construction manager, said. The infusion of state dollars makes it easier to pay for the projects.
The city council on Tuesday approved spending $352,000 in a “scope and fee” package ahead of bidding out the $4 million construction contracts.
“We hear clearly from city council that safety is a top priority,” City Manager Denise Bevan said. “I know specifically the Belle Terre project is absolutely critically needed. We hear from commander [Phil] Reynolds on a weekly basis on where these accidents are happening and where we should be most thoughtful of prioritizing projects. So in essence, it really is a challenge to get the funding to lift these heavy projects. You look at the history of Palm Coast Parkway and it took 20 years to expand that and to have a strategy to improve traffic flow, relieve congestion. But ultimately it’s all about safety.”
Tony Amaral, the developer, has no issue with the improvements. But he had one request for the council: “Can we do something where we’re not under construction at 8 o’clock in the morning, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when those roads are already super saturated, and we are literally shutting down what we have to one lane and trying to get everyone through there, and we’re creating a hazard later on.”
But night construction has been an issue for contractors across the region. Earlier this month the general contractor for the coming Margaritaville Hotel planned for downtown Flagler Beach was asked by several residents whether night construction was possible, to reduce the impact on traffic. No, he said: he’s having a hard enough time finding construction workers for regular, day shifts.
In Palm Coast, the work won’t be done at night, either. The quality of work is better during the day, Cote said. But city planners, not the contractor, will come up with the traffic-flow plan.
“There’s obviously many intersections, we’re not going to let them start working on all six or seven of them at one time,” Cote said. “There’s going to be some sequencing. Obviously, you can’t do the work without impact to the traffic flow, but we’re going to try and work on the best plan to minimize that traffic flow. It may make the contract or the work take a little bit longer.” The planners will take into account when traffic is at its heaviest, when school buses are using the roadway. But there will be some discomfort ahead. “Obviously there are times when there’s certain underground work where you have to leave it closed for a certain period of time because you can’t open and close it the same day type of thing.”