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HFF Talks Turnpike with FDOT

HFF Talks Turnpike with FDOT

We Sat Down with FDOT and Learned Some Things about the Northern Turnpike Extension That You May Not Know

In October 2021, Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise (FTE), part of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), began an Alternative Corridor Evaluation (ACE) study to evaluate the extension of Florida’s Turnpike from its northerly terminus in Wildwood to a logical and appropriate terminus as determined by FDOT.  The Northern Turnpike Extension (NTE) study area includes Citrus, Levy, Marion, and Sumter counties.

Horse Farms Forever® has taken a neutral position on the ACE Study because the four proposed corridors were not located inside the Farmland Preservation Area.

HFF’s policy statement on transportation reads: Any new road projects within the Farmland Preservation Area should use existing rights-of-way. This position aligns with Marion County’s Comprehensive Plan Policy 3.3.1 Elements of Rural Character which states: “Transportation: New transportation corridors intended to be used specifically for the construction of expressways or limited access roadways shall avoid the Farmland Preservation Area.”

In our role as a watchdog of government actions, Horse Farms Forever® staff recently met with members of the NTE project team from FTE to learn more about the process of developing corridors and the parameters used to evaluate corridor alternatives, and ultimately select a route for the proposed NTE.

Phase 1 Is All About Choosing A Corridor

In the next 20 years, Florida’s population is projected to increase by five million people to 26 million residents.(1) With this expected population growth, the transportation systems must also grow to provide a safe and reliable transportation network. To accommodate this growth, FTE is conducting a study to evaluate an extension of Florida’s Turnpike. The ACE process is used to identify, evaluate, and eliminate alternative corridors on qualifying projects. The main goal of the ACE study is to narrow the potential four corridor alternatives down to one corridor.

Phase 2 Will Look At Several Alignments – And Also No Build

The recommended corridor from the ACE study is the basis for Phase 2 of the project, the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study phase. In this phase, the recommended alternative corridor goes through further detailed evaluation to refine a range of alternatives within the selected corridor. The PD&E study will also evaluate a No-Build option as well as potential Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSM&O) improvements such as ramp signals or work zone traffic management.

“It’s a long process and we are very early in the planning phase. There are five steps from planning to construction and finally operation,” said William Burke, FTE Project Manager (HDR). “We are evaluating all of the corridors against the goals of the project, but also how they impact the environment, traffic, and cost.”

Jennifer Stults, FDOT Planning and Environmental Management Administrator, emphasized that this phase is focused on mapping by using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data and characterized it as an exercise in avoidance to help protect environmentally sensitive areas, natural resources and residential areas.

“At this phase, the corridors are broad to allow us to evaluate the area, but we will narrow the focus and refine the corridors based on information that is processed. This will allow us to accommodate those areas that we want to avoid,” said Stults. She also emphasized that the project team is sensitive to local land use decisions and conservation areas. “We want to be a good partner,” said Stults. “We work closely with our local partners to identify some of the things in process that we would not be aware of yet. This is why our ongoing robust community engagement work is so important. We absolutely want to hear from our stakeholders.”

For example, not only are existing conservation areas avoided, but also the areas that have been identified for conservation as part of a local or state program, or those areas that are part of the optimum boundary of the conservation area. In addition to public conservation lands such as state parks, the team is also mindful of privately-owned land with a conservation easement that has been delineated in the GIS mapping data.

 “There are a lot of different types of conservation land with different types of habitat, and if there is land with a conservation easement here and one without a conservation there, we are going to route around the land with the easement whenever possible,” said Burke. “There could be some exceptions, but generally speaking we would avoid those areas as much as possible.”

Conservation Is Written Into The Statute

The ACE study will identify preliminary environmental impacts and any potential impacts to existing conservation lands will be further evaluated and mitigated in the PD&E study to the greatest extent possible. 

There are two important sections in the enabling Statute to mitigate environmental impacts:

(7) The department shall consider innovative concepts to combine right-of-way acquisition with the acquisition of lands or easements to facilitate environmental mitigation or ecosystem, wildlife habitat, or water quality protection or restoration.

(8)(b) To the greatest extent practicable, roadway alignments, project alignment, and interchange locations shall be designed so that project rights-of-way are not located within conservation lands acquired under the Florida Preservation 2000 Act established in s. 259.101 and the Florida Forever Act established in s. 259.105.

NTE Scope Is Narrower than M-CORES

The NTE and Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) program are different projects. The goals of the NTE are to enhance regional connectivity, accommodate increased travel demand, address regional congestion and safety, and improve emergency response. The M-CORES program conversely had a broader statewide goal of implementing regional corridors that were intended to accommodate multiple modes of transportation and multiple types of infrastructure. The M-CORES program was planned to address various issues beyond those typically accommodated in FDOT projects such as broadband, water, and sewer connectivity; energy distribution; trade and logistics; mobility as a service; and availability of a trained workforce skilled in traditional and emerging technologies, among others.

During the 2021 legislative session, Florida Statute 338.2278, repealed M-CORES.  The same legislation authorized study of the NTE. 

Interchange Features Can Be Controlled By Local Governments

The project team will work with local governments to determine the location of proposed interchanges and to determine the features of the interchange, such as a gateway feature or region-specific landscape features. Local governments can also include restrictions in the comprehensive plan to determine development around the interchange. This is one way to reduce urban sprawl.

“In Citrus County, there is an interchange management plan,” said Stults. “Also, along the Turnpike, with limited access, there are areas where minimum development has occurred for decades. That is where the local planning agencies are able to choose what they would like to see happen in their community.”

Project Schedule Is Driven By Public Interest

FTE initiated the planning phase of the Northern Turnpike Extension project in October 2021. The project is currently in early stages of development with the Efficient Transportation Decision Making screening and the ACE underway. Based on the high level of engagement and interest, FDOT is increasing opportunities to engage with local governments, stakeholders, and residents within the study area. The additional engagement efforts and increased public interest are underway and will continue to influence the project schedule. The project website remains an up-to-date and dependable resource for information and opportunities to provide feedback. Public engagement will continue to shape how the Northern Turnpike Extension supports regional and statewide needs as it moves through all phases of the project development process.

 

Source: Northern Turnpike Extension – Florida’s Turnpike (floridasturnpike.com)

NTE End Point Will Be Decided

 One of the main goals of the ACE study is to determine the project limits. Stults also emphasized that public participation is important and will help influence the route of the corridor.

 “The Northern Turnpike Extension will end at a point that is to be determined only after further study is completed and feedback from stakeholders is reviewed. We are still in that gathering process,” said Stults.

Because SB 100 (2021) gave the FDOT the authority to determine the end point for the NTE, it does not have to connect with the Suncoast Parkway. This gave the project team more flexibility when developing the four corridor alternatives.

The two northern corridor alternatives end at different locations along US 19 (98), while the central and the southern corridors end at US 19 (98) or the future location of the Suncoast Parkway. The longest corridor (Alternative Corridor North A) stretches nearly 75 miles across three counties to end at Chiefland. The three other corridors take a more westerly direction and are much shorter.

The legislation requires the FDOT to take into consideration the previous task force reports. These reports may help determine the route.

 (6) Any existing applicable requirements relating to turnpike projects apply to projects undertaken by the Turnpike Enterprise pursuant to this section. The Turnpike Enterprise shall take into consideration the guidance and recommendations of any previous studies or reports relevant to the projects authorized by this section and ss. 339.67 and 339.68, including, but not limited to, the task force reports prepared pursuant to chapter 2019-43, Laws of Florida, and with respect to any extension of the Florida Turnpike from its northerly terminus in Wildwood.

***

Horse Farms Forever® thanks the Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise team for taking the time to discuss the process of selecting corridors and the parameters used to select a route for the proposed Northern Turnpike Extension project. 

 

Public Input Requested

In addition to holding public meetings, the Department engages the public on all its projects and welcomes your feedback.

The project team also strongly encourages residents to submit comments using the online comment form.

 “Just keep an open mind and give us as many detailed comments as you want to submit,” said Stults. “Folks are entitled to their opinion, but the more specific the suggestions are, the more it helps the team fine-tune the route.”

For other project information, please contact:

William Burke, PLA

Project Manager
Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise (HDR)

407-264-3142 | william.burke@dot.state.fl.us

Northern Turnpike Extension Webpage: www.floridasturnpike.com/NTE

 

Suncoast Parkway 2 Under Construction

The Suncoast Parkway 2, or the Suncoast extension, is shown on the study area map for the Northern Turnpike Extension project, but it is a separate road improvement project that is located entirely in Citrus County. Phase 1 of the Suncoast Parkway extension was recently opened to traffic and ends at SR 44. Phases 2 and 3 are in the Design Phase and sections of the road are funded for construction. These sections combine for 13 miles, starting at SR 44 and connecting to US 19.

Here’s a link to a detailed map, information, and schedule. 

It is the vision and mission of Horse Farms Forever to inspire conservation of horse farms through education, awareness and idea exchange so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats, to protect soil and water on which they depend, and minimize land use conflicts
in Marion County, Florida.

We are watchful of government and others to preserve and protect horse farms and farmland for future generations - especially in the Farmland Preservation Area. We are neither anti-growth nor anti-development; we encourage urban growth to remain inside the Urban Growth Boundary.

Horse Farms Forever® is a Florida not-for-profit corporation registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as a charitable organization and approved as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation by the Internal Revenue Service. Horse Farms Forever® does not have a political mission. Our status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization does not allow us to participate or intervene in political activities. The organization will neither advocate on behalf of political candidates nor advocate for the passage of legislation.

 

The Master Plan For I-75

The Master Plan For I-75

From The Turnpike to CR 234 – The Latest on Fifty Miles of Improvements

There is no doubt that I-75 is near capacity. To accommodate the projected population growth and increased truck traffic, the road’s capacity will have to be expanded.

Over the next 20 years, Marion County’s population will grow by about 150,000 new residents to reach nearly half a million people. In addition, the industrial warehouse space will increase to a total of 17M square feet. About half of the existing 11M square feet of industrial warehouse space is used by five distribution centers and an additional six million square feet of industrial warehouse space will be completed over the next 12 to 18 months.

This exponential growth will stretch the capacity of I-75 to its limits.

I-75’s capacity issues have been on the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) radar since 2016, with the formation of the I-75 Relief Task Force. The top recommendation from the Task Force was to improve the capacity of I-75. The second recommendation was to improve existing roads such as 41, 441 and 301.

In 2018, the Coastal Connector was proposed by FDOT, but since that was rejected, I-75 became the focus again in 2019. (The Northern Turnpike Extension was proposed by the Florida Turnpike Enterprise (FTE), which is part of FDOT in 2021).

Scope Of The Project

In 2021, FDOT decided to take a step back and refresh the Master Plan for I-75. The project starts in Sumter County at the northern terminus of Florida’s Turnpike in Wildwood and goes north for 47.8 miles to County Road (CR) 234 just north of Marion County. 

 

The Master Plan will only evaluate upgrading I-75 within the existing corridor. The project is divided into two sections for the purposes of the study.

Section 1 starts at the Florida Turnpike to 22.5 miles north to State Road (SR) 200.

Section 2 starts at SR 200 in Marion County to 25.3 miles north to County Road (CR) 234 in Alachua County.

Timeline

The work on the I-75 Master Plan began in June, 2021. The draft  Master Plan report will be available sometime in June, 2022. A public meeting will be held in summer, 2022 for public comment and the final Master Plan report is due in November, 2022. The next phase is PD&E followed by Design and Construction. The FDOT Project Manager for the I-75 Master Plan is Mary McGehee. FDOT is also working with two consulting engineering firms, Volkert and HDR, Inc. to conduct the I-75 Master Plan study.

“The Master Plan will look at the short-term and the long-term solutions,” said Steven Schnell, an engineer with HDR, Inc. “The long-term solution looks out to 2050 and what needs to be done. This is such a long corridor and it will be implemented in phases to determine what is the best strategy and plan going forward.”

Some of the short-term solutions include enhanced ramps and better signals at some of the interchanges. The intersections at CR 236, SR 40 and SR 200 will also be improved.

“The biggest issues are at CR 326,” said McGehee. “That’s where the trucks are getting on and off of I-75. The two truck service centers at this intersection also adds to the congestion as the trucks intermingle with the cars.”

The long-term improvements will be included in the Master Plan study and potentially include adding two additional lanes and new interchanges. The goal is to improve the traffic flow and safety, and to further reduce the amount of time to clear traffic incidents. The variation in the traffic due to the holidays, weekends, inclement weather, incidents and the truck traffic will also be addressed in the report.

Ocala’s Strategic Location

FDOT has the Herculean task of planning for the future transportation needs for Marion County. The good news is that the majority of the road improvements are made within existing corridors.

Marion County is growing quickly and the roads must also grow. Ocala’s strategic location between several major cities and readily available land along I-75 is one of the reasons several large distribution centers have chosen Ocala for their relocation or expansion needs. For tourists and commuters, I-75 is also the most direct route to the Turnpike and to south Florida’s popular west coast.

42 Projects

There are currently 42 FDOT projects in Marion County that are at various stages. You can submit comments or ask a question about each project on the FDOT District Five website.

We’ll Be Watching

The improvement of I-75 is one of the most significant transportation issues facing the county. I-75 also runs through the Farmland Preservation Area, so we will be monitoring the I-75 Master Plan and attending the public meeting this summer. We thank the FDOT team for updating us about the road improvement project because it will have a tremendous impact on the quality of life in Marion County. FDOT has decades of institutional experience and their goal is to make I-75 better and safer for all travelers.

 

Already In The Design Phase

New I-75 Interchange at NW 49th Street/NW 35th Street

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is building the new interchange at NW 49th Street/NW 35th Street. According to the FDOT website, the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study was completed in March 2021 and the project is currently in the design phase. The FDOT Design Project Manager is Megan Owens and the Design Firm is Metric Engineering.

Construction is anticipated to begin in August of 2024. The cost of the project is approximately $41 million for construction. The estimated time frame for completion is 1 to 3 years.

Read our blog on this project

Link to the PD&E study and a comment form to send comments to FDOT.

Questions About Conservation?

Contact Busy Shires, our Director of Conservation Strategies, by email or by phone 386-853-4437.

Always Watching

We work hard to keep you informed, and to represent our members' interests in preserving our horse farms, farmland and the unique character and culture of Marion County's 193,000 acre Farmland Preservation Area.

Join the herd. Every voice matters.

UPDATE: SW/NW 80th/70th Avenue Road-Widening

UPDATE: SW/NW 80th/70th Avenue Road-Widening

Four-Lane Widening of SW/NW 80th/70th Avenue Approved

At the Marion County Commission meeting on Tuesday, December 7th, the Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) was approved for the 10.5-mile segment of SW/NW 80th/70th Avenue. This road will be widened to four lanes, starting at SW 90th Avenue to 0.5 miles north of US Hwy 27. Funding for design of phased portions of the corridor is available in the current budget. The road project is divided into three sections for construction, but only two of the three sections are funded.

Paul Wildman, P.E., from Guerra Development Group presented the PER, a 900-page document with detailed maps and conceptual designs of the proposed road. The PER report is the first phase. The next three phases are: design, right of way acquisition, and construction.

Alignments

Two different roadway alignments, A and B, were presented for approval. The County Commission voted to approve Alignment A.

Alignment A consists of reducing the amount of impacts and meanders through the corridor,” said Wildman. “The other option is Alternate B, which takes a centerline approach and the need for right of way and improvements is along both sides of the corridor,” he said.

Expand Photo

Alignment A also received more support from the public meeting comments. It avoids impacts to the cemetery and costs less to construct.

 

Designs

The County Commission also selected Major Typical Section 2 as the preferred design of the road. This design is 120 feet wide and includes a bike lane adjacent to the travel way, a sidewalk on the east side, and a multi-use path on the west side of the road.

Expand Photo

 

Special Case Scenarios

In addition to the Major Typical Sections, there were several “special case scenarios” identified in the report as Minor Typical Sections. The section of the road near On Top of the World (OTOW) is one example because a multiuse path already exits. An agreement will be negotiated with OTOW to utilize this existing path instead of building a new path.

County Commissioner Stone also requested berms be built to address the traffic noise and to help block the view of the traffic. This will also be considered during the design phase of the road.

The improvements of the intersection at NW 41st Place Road are also in the concept design phase. One option is to include an extra long turn lane and improve the intersection to allow for U-Turns. Other design concepts include a frontage road, or to connect NW 41st Place Road to SW 52nd Street. The intersection improvements will allow horse trailers and large recreational vehicles to safely change direction on the road. The final design will be brought back to the County Commission for approval.

Intersection Improvements

The traffic report shows the need to improve seven major intersections for safety. The following intersections are recommended to be improved through the 2045 design year:

  • SW 80th Avenue at SW 90th Street- Additional turn lanes and signal updates.
  • SW 80th Avenue at SW 80th Street- Additional turn lanes and signal updates.
  • SW 80th Avenue at SW 63rd Street Road- New Signal and additional turn Lanes.
  • SW 80th Avenue at SW 38th Street- Additional turn lanes and signal updates.
  • SR 40 at NW/SW 80th Avenue- Additional turn lanes and signal updates.
  • NW 80th Avenue at NW 21st Street – New Signal and additional turn Lanes.
  • US 27 at CR 225A- Additional turn lanes and signal updates.

Other Issues

The report also addressed several issues such as number of residences affected, feasibility of design/permitting, costs, environmental impacts such as wetlands and protected species, cultural/archaeological factors including a local cemetery, and infrastructure flexibility to meet future needs.

The report includes feedback from major stakeholders, government agencies, the County Commission, the County Engineer, and the public. Two meetings were held at Westport High School to take public comment on the road in July 2021. Guerra provided responses to all of the public comments submitted.

Three Sections

  • Segment 1: From SW 90th to just north of Westport High School is funded and construction is expected to start within the next three years.
  • Segment 2: Just north of Westport High School to south of SR 40, but this section is not funded and funding is not anticipated for at least 5 years.
  • Segment 3: Just north of SR 40 to US 27 is funded and construction will start within the next three to five years.

In addition, two new intersection improvements at SR 40 and US Hwy 27 are funded. The intersection at SR 40 will likely to go to construction next year. The intersection at US Hwy 27 is under construction now. (See update below about the US Hwy 27 intersection).

The full PER can be viewed at the following link: https://bcc.marioncountyfl.org/Full_Preliminary%20Engineering%20Report_SW%20NW%2080th%2070th%20Ave_Nov%202021.pdf

The SW/NW 80th/70th Avenue road-widening project was approved in 2018 as part of the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The TIP is a five-year schedule of transportation projects proposed by government agencies and other stakeholders in Marion County. https://ocalamariontpo.org/plans-and-programs/transportation-improvement-program-tip/

Updates on US Hwy 27 And The New Road/Interchange at NW 49th Street

Aerial view of the parcel# 13561-004-00. This is where the four-laning will end and the new road at NW 49th Street will meet 225A. Expand Photo

1. When will the extension North of US Hwy 27 be completed?

NW 70th Ave/CR 225A and US Hwy 27: The improvements to the intersection at NW 70th Ave/CR 225A and US Hwy 27 is the first road improvement project for SW/NW 80th/70th Avenue and it is currently under construction by Marion County. The estimated horizon for completion is mid March 2022. However, the completion date may extend to April 2022.

The road will be converted to a four-lane divided roadway that extends approximately 600 feet on both sides of US 27. The road improvements include turn-lanes, bike lanes, curb and gutter, concrete sidewalks, shared use path, medians, storm drainage, drainage retention areas, traffic markings and signals, ditches, berms, driveways, water mains, and sanitary sewer mains.

As part of Section 3 in the Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) for the SW/NW 80th/70th Avenue Road Widening project, CR 225A will be four-laned from the US Hwy 27 intersection improvements to the new road, NW 49th Street, that will connect CR 225A to the new I-75 Intersection. Section 3 is currently under design. This Section is funded and construction will start within the next three to five years.

The four-laning of CR 225A will end at about NW 44th Lane. The parcel number where the four-laning will end is 13561-004-00.

2. When will the new interchange at I-75 will be built?

New I-75 Interchange at NW 49th Street/NW 35th Street: The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is building the new interchange at NW 49th Street/NW 35th Street. According to the FDOT website, the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study was completed in March 2021 and the project is currently in the design phase. The FDOT Design Project Manager is Megan Owens and the Design Firm is Metric Engineering.

Construction is anticipated to begin in December of 2024. The cost of the project is approximately $41 million for construction. The estimated time frame for completion is 1 to 3 years. Link to the PD&E study and a comment form to send comments to FDOT: https://www.cflroads.com/project/435209-1

This interchange will extend from the NW 35th Street extension, which Marion County is constructing, to the Amazon warehouse. The new street will go through the mining operation. The interchange will go over I-75, via a bridge, from NW 35th Street on the east side and it will tie into the existing NW 49th Street on the west side of I-75. This is a Diverging Diamond Interchange configuration. There will be a brand new intersection built at NW 49th Street and NW 44th Ave. Traffic will have access to NW 44th Ave, which runs parallel to I-75 and connects to US Hwy 27 and Hwy 326

3. When will the road that connects CR 225A to I-75 be built?

NW 49th Street: Connects CR 225A to new I-75 Interchange at NW 49th Street: The connection of CR 225A to the interchange at NW 49th Street will be built in two sections: 3A and 3B. Both sections are funded for design. Section 3A is funded for construction in fiscal year 2020/2021. Section 3B is funded for construction in 2022/2023.

The general rule of thumb for road construction projects is that the design phase is one year. The next phase is to acquire the right of way, which takes up to one year or more and the final phase is construction, which is one year or less. Sometimes the right of way acquisition and construction overlap.

Section 3A: The design for Section 3A has been started and the construction is funded for fiscal year 2020/2021, which began on October 1, 2021. The cost for the 1.1-mile section of the two-lane road is $2,000,000.

3A runs from a location point which is located 1.1 miles west of NW 44th Avenue to NW 44th Avenue. Deputy County Engineer Don Atwell is the Project Manager for Section 3A. See item number C5 on the 2020/2021 – 2024/2025 Marion County Transportation Improvement Program
https://www.marionfl.org/home/showpublisheddocument/20890/637245315041870000

Section 3B: The design for Section 3B has not been started. The right of way acquisition is funded for fiscal year 2021/2022 at a cost of $780,000 and construction is funded for fiscal year 2022/2023 at a cost of $4,450,000.

3B starts at CR 225A and ends at the beginning of Section 3A at the location point 1.1 miles west of NW 44th Avenue. See item number C10 on the 2021/2022 – 2025/2026 Marion County Transportation Improvement Program. https://www.marionfl.org/home/showpublisheddocument/22134/637605811040870000

Always Watching

We work hard to keep you informed, and to represent our members' interests in preserving our horse farms, farmland and the unique character and culture of Marion County's 193,000 acre Farmland Preservation Area.

Join the herd. Every voice matters.

Road Widening Public Hearing Stresses the Need for Public Input

Road Widening Public Hearing Stresses the Need for Public Input

Final Comments Due August 2nd

Over 200 people attended the workshops on July 14 and 15 about the SW/NW 80th/70th Avenue road-widening project. Marion County’s Deputy County Engineer, Donald Atwell and representatives from Guerra Development Corporation presented several options for the proposed improvements, which include expanding the current roadway to a four-lane road with bike lanes, pedestrian walks, and a grass median.

Wednesday’s meeting focused on the road improvements that are south of SR 40. Thursday’s meeting focused on the road improvements north of SR 40.

Deputy County Engineer Atwell emphasized the importance of submitting formally written comments so that suggested changes could be considered for the road’s design. “This is the time to make a comment, whether you like the project or not,” said Deputy County Engineer Atwell. The deadline for comments is August 2nd and they must be submitted on the Comment Form and sent via email, or mail to the address on the Comment Form.

Paul Wildman, P.E., for Guerra Development Corporation, made the presentation about the road improvements. The road improvements start at SW 90th Street and end about .5 mile north of US 27 on CR 225A. The total length is about 10.5 miles. It will be expanded to a 120’ divided four-lane roadway with options for pedestrian use paths. Alternative A is the recommended design. The road improvements are funded by the Penny Sales Tax funds that are administered by Marion County.

With the opening of the World Equestrian Center, and several existing and planned large residential developments, the road improvements are needed. Traffic is projected to increase to 37,500 trips per day. The additional capacity will help maintain the level of service and increase the safety of the road for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

A new road is also planned to connect CR 225A to the new interchange being built by the Florida Department of Transportation at NW 49th Street.

Three Sections

The road project will be divided into three sections, but only two of the three sections are funded.

  • Segment 1: From SW 90th to just north of Westport High School is funded and construction is expected to start within the next three years.
  • Segment 2: Just north of Westport High School to south of SR 40, but this section is not funded and funding is not anticipated for at least 5 years.
  • Segment 3: Just north of SR 40 to US 27 is funded and construction will start within the next three to five years.
  • In addition, two new intersection improvements at SR 40 and US 27 are funded. The intersection at SR 40 is likely to go to construction this year. The intersection at US 27 will go to construction any day now.

Questions From the Floor

After the presentation several residents asked questions, which are summarized below:

QUESTION: Why not use 60th, which is already a four lane road?

ANSWER: Both roads are needed. The traffic study looked out 20 years at a 2045 horizon and determined that the road will have to be four-laned. All of the new the development is occurring on NW/SW 80th Avenue and if the road is left as a two-lane road, the level of service will go down significantly. There is a lot of active development along the corridor – Stone Creek, Bay Laurel, Calesa, World Equestrian Center, and On Top of the World.

The SW/NW 80th/70th Avenue is a corridor and this is part of the long-range transportation plan. Marion County will need to have more than 60th Avenue as a four-lane road. There will be additional projects around this to accommodate the traffic. It’s better to build the project before it’s too late. It’s far better to do it now.

QUESTION: What will be done to address the noise and safety?

ANSWER: Noise barriers are not standard for this type of road, but Guerra will submit this question to the Board of County Commissioners for consideration. This would be a change in policy. There are valid concerns about the intersection at SW 38th Street. Marion County Commissioner Michelle Stone has requested that this intersection be evaluated to address the safety and access issues.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

  • Can you combine Alternative A and Alternative B and make the road oscillate more instead of just one Alternative?
  • Could you remove one of the 14’ multi use paths and only have one 14’ multi use path on one side of the road? This will decrease the total width of the road.

Dig Deeper:

This is the time to make a comment, whether you like the project or not.

Donald Atwell

Deputy County Engineer, Marion County

Fill Out The Comment Form

Please submit comments or questions by August 2. It’s easy! Just fill out the Comment Form online, save it as a PDF, and email it to: GDCPER@guerracorp.net

You can either email it to the address above or mail the printed form it to: Paul Wildman, P.E., Guerra Development Corp. 2817 NE 3rd Street, Ocala, FL 34470.

After these two meetings, another workshop will be scheduled with the Marion County Board of County Commissioners.

Questions About Conservation?

Contact Busy Shires, our Director of Conservation Strategies, by email or by phone 386-853-4437.

Always Watching

We work hard to keep you informed, and to represent our members' interests in preserving our horse farms, farmland and the unique character and culture of Marion County's 193,000 acre Farmland Preservation Area.

Join the herd. Every voice matters.

Public Input Requested on the SW/NW 80th/70th Avenue Road Widening

Public Input Requested on the SW/NW 80th/70th Avenue Road Widening

The public is invited to provide input on the SW/NW 80th/70th Avenue road widening project at two meetings hosted by Guerra Development Corporation.

The meetings will be held on Wednesday, July 14 and Thursday, July 15 from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM at Westport High School Auditorium. Horse Farms Forever staff will attend and report on the outcomes.

Engineers from Guerra Development Corporation will present information about the road widening project in two separate meetings. The first meeting on July 14 will focus on the road improvements located south of SR 40. The second meeting on July 15 will be focused on the section of the road north of SR 40.

The proposed improvements include expanding the current roadway to a four-lane road with bike lanes, pedestrian walks, and a grass median.

The goal of the meetings is to obtain public feedback about the improvements. After the presentation, there will be a breakout question and answer session. Written comments are preferred, and comment forms will be provided at the meeting.

Fill Out The Comment Form

If you are unable to attend the meeting, you can fill out the Comment Form online and email it to: GDCPER@guerracorp.net

Fill out the Comment Form online, save it as a PDF, and then email it to the address above or mail the printed form it to: Paul Wildman, P.E., Guerra Development Corp. 2817 NE 3rd Street, Ocala, FL 34470)

After these two meetings, another workshop will be scheduled with the Marion County Board of County Commissioners.

Always Watching

We work hard to keep you informed, and to represent our members' interests in preserving our horse farms, farmland and the unique character and culture of Marion County's 193,000 acre Farmland Preservation Area.

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Update on the SW/NW 80th/70th Avenue Road Widening

Update on the SW/NW 80th/70th Avenue Road Widening

At the Marion County Commission Workshop on June 7th, Juan Guerra, Owner of Guerra Development Corporation, presented the Preliminary Engineering Report (P.E.R.) for SW/NW 80th/70th Avenue.

With the opening of the World Equestrian Center, and the new Calesa Township being built at On Top of the World Communities Ocala, the traffic on SW/NW 80th/70th Avenue will more than double. That’s an increase from about 14,600 to 37,500 vehicles per day. To accommodate this traffic and make it safer for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists, the road will be widened into a divided four-lane roadway with a median, sidewalks, bike paths and a separate multiuse asphalt path.

A Look at the Area

The road improvement project is 10.5 miles long and extends from just north of SR 200 to about one quarter to one half-mile north of US 27. Due to the existing businesses, houses, and Westport High School, the width and design of the road will be modified to accommodate the existing uses. Most of the road widening will occur on the west side of the existing road. At the widest point, the road and multiuse paths will be 120’. The multiuse paths vary from 10’ to 14’ wide and they also include a designated bike path. Other potential sections of the road will be 100’ with a 5’ sidewalk and 4’ bike lane next to the 12’ travel lane for cars. The designs presented were preliminary designs and the road will be approved after further input is received.

Three Phases – Ten Years

There are three main segments to the road construction project. It is estimated that it will take 10 years to complete. The intersections at US 27 and SR 40 will be the first segments to be completed. There is a preconstruction meeting for the intersection at US 27 that will be held sometime this month.

The Workshop was an opportunity to receive feedback from the Commissioners about the road improvements. Several Commissioners expressed concerns about saving the tree canopy and the legacy trees. Mr. Guerra said that every effort would be made to save as many trees as possible and to protect the character of the road. The multiuse path will be “meandered” to make the path more appealing and to help save the trees.

Because it was a Commission Workshop, there were no public comments. However, a community meeting will be scheduled soon for the public to provide input and comments. Keep an eye on the Calendar for updates.

Send comments to: roads@marionfl.org
For more information, contact Pat Russett at 352-671-8686.

Questions About Conservation?

Contact Busy Shires, our Director of Conservation Strategies, by email or by phone 386-853-4437.

Engineering Report

The full report is available on Marion County’s website. To go there, click on the image or the button below:

Always Watching

We work hard to keep you informed, and to represent our members' interests in preserving our horse farms, farmland and the unique character and culture of Marion County's 193,000 acre Farmland Preservation Area.

Join the herd. Every voice matters.

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