It’s been planned for since before Palm Coast was a city. It’s now about to happen. Get ready for the widening of Old Kings Road at Palm Coast Parkway, one of the more chronically congested segments of city streets. Construction begins next May and will take nine months, ending in January 2021.
A mile and a half of the Parkway on either side of Old Kings was six-laned for $10.5 million, a project completed at the end of 2015. The $8.2 million widening of Old Kings Road at the intersection with the Parkway is the first of several phases that will eventually four-lane 3.4 miles of Old Kings all the way to Forest Grove, north of which the road was widened several years ago.
The first phase includes just 0.7 miles. The segment stretches from the southern intersection of Old Kings with Kingswood Drive, just south of the Blare Drive entrance to the Woodlands, to Kings Way Road, also known as Celico Way, at the north end, near the Staples shopping center. The state Department of Transportation is assuming $6.87 million of that cost. The Palm Coast City Council discussed the state grant at its workshop this morning, signaling formal approval at next week’s meeting.
Palm Coast government is picking up the remainder of the $8.2 million total cost, using $1 million from transportation impact fees (the one-time fees levied on new construction to defray such costs) and $350,000 from the city utility’s capital fund. Almost $1 million of that is contingency funding–that is, money set aside in case of overruns or other issues. It does not mean that the money will be spent. The transportation department does not pay for utility-line relocation costs, and of course would not pay for Palm Coast’s own extensions of its broadband, FiberNet network.
“The project is going to be done in phases due to the cost of the overall project, around $30 million,” Carl Cote, the city’s construction manager, said.
You’ll see construction activity south of Kingswood Drive, where a retention pond will be built off of Utility Drive. That will accommodate the future widening of Old Kings, south to Town Center Boulevard.
The Old Kings Road-Palm Coast Parkway intersection flows well east and west, but bottlenecks north and south as traffic funnels into an outdated lane structure. It is so outdated that the original design plan for its widening was done by county government, before Palm Coast incorporated in 1999, Cote said. There just hasn’t been enough money to carry out the improvements since.
For example, for traffic heading south on Old Kings, there are just three lanes at the intersection with the Parkway: two lanes turning west, or right, and just one lane both for thru traffic across the parkway and for traffic heading east. Similar limitations apply to northbound traffic, so that at peak times, traffic tends to back up considerably. (“Considerably” is a relative term, of course: in most large cities, such back-ups would be normal. But Palm Coast drivers still have a low tolerance for urban traffic patterns.)
All that will change. Southbound traffic’s funnel will be expanded to five lanes: the two dedicated westbound lanes, two dedicated thru-traffic lanes, and one westbound lane. The trees in the island at the north end of the intersection will be removed and replaced with a concrete separator, with some landscaping and trees in the median starting at the Kings Way intersection, Cote said.
The big question, of course, is when Phase 2 would take place. But that’s a mystery. “We keep pursuing grant funding from DOT. It is on their list of projects to be funded,” Cote said. “We indicated to them it’s our top priority project to get funded for construction, so it’s just a matter of when funding is available from DOT.” That second phase will itself be split in sub-phases.
“Initially,” Cote said, “this was funded as a single project by DOTR. We were seeking funding for construction as a single-phased project. After several years of getting nowhere with DOT, we had a big sit down with them, and they basically said, we’re never going to fund a $30 million project in this area, so you need to break it into phases. So they provide the funds to redesign and split the design into three projects. They say right around the $10 million mark is about the limit that will help us advance this most expeditiously.”