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ROADWAY THREATS

The developers want to pave it; we want to save it!

The proposed NW Ocala Beltway maps

Beltway

Citrus-Marion-Sumter Suncoast Parkway Connection to U.S. 19/98 Including West Ocala Beltway

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Florida Main Road

Sunshine State Parkway (SR 589)
Extension to I-10

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Proposed Ocala Beltway Route

Original FDOT Coastal Connector Routes

VIEW MAP

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 352-234-7175.

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.

Join the herd. Every voice matters.

UPDATE: Five Major Road Widening and Intersection Improvements

Using Marion County’s Interactive Map, we’ve roughed in the project areas (turquoise blue). As you can see, they are within the Urban Growth Boundary and outside of the Farmland Preservation Area.

by Busy Shires
April 27, 2021

Did you notice all the extra traffic and snow birds this winter in Ocala? To accommodate for the increase in traffic – from cars, to horse trailers and big trucks – there are five major road projects in Marion County. These road projects will make the roads safer for people and horses around the World Equestrian Center and they will help the big trucks gain better access to I-75. The good news is that all five projects are located outside of the Farmland Preservation Area.

With the opening of the World Equestrian Center (WEC), Marion County is becoming the epicenter for horse owners seeking the warmth of a Florida winter to train and show their horses. During this winter’s show season, over 2,000 horses showed at WEC! That’s in addition to the nearly 80,000 horses that already call Marion County home.

Marion County’s distribution industry is also booming. Over the next five years, an additional 5 million square feet of industrial and warehouse space will be built to accommodate several new distribution centers. This square footage is in addition to the existing Fed Ex, Chewy’s, Amazon, AutoZone, and Dollar Tree distribution centers. The central location of Ocala with easy access to Jacksonville and Tampa via I-75 has made the area an ideal distribution hub.

One of the largest road projects is a new interchange on the east side of I-75 at NW 49th St/NW 35th St. This new interchange will travel over I-75 to connect into the existing road at NW 49th St./NW 44th Ave. on the west side. A new intersection will also be built at NW 49th St./NW 44th Ave. From this new intersection, a new two-lane road will be built to connect to CR 225A north of the intersection at US 27.

In addition, NW 70th Ave./NW 80th Ave. will be four-laned from SW 80th St. to 600 feet North of US 27. The intersections at each end of NW 70th Ave./NW 80th Ave. at US Hwy 27 and Hwy 40 will be improved with turn lanes. Also, 600 feet on both the north side of US 27 and the south side of Hwy. 40 will also be four-laned.

CR 225A will remain a two-lane road from the 600-foot intersection improvement at US 27 to the proposed road that connects CR 225A to NW 44th Ave. There are no additional plans to four-lane CR 225A further north of the new road at NW 44th Ave.

The Drop Down Links Below Provide More Detail On Each of the Five Projects:

1. NW 70th Ave./CR 225 A and US 27

The improvement of the intersection at NW 70th Ave./CR 225 A and US 27 is the first project. The long-term goal is to improve both of the intersections at the north and south ends of NW 70th Ave./NW 80th Ave. The north section is located at US Hwy. 27 and NW 70th Ave./CR 225A and the south section is located at Hwy. 40 and NW 80th Ave.

The intersection improvements extend approximately 600 feet on both sides of US 27. The map shows the location of the improvements, the intersection “approaches” and the Drainage Retention Areas (DRAs) north and south of US 27.

This project is funded by Marion County for a cost of approximately $4.7 million. Guerra Development Corp. is the design engineer and Commercial Industrial Corporation is the contractor.

This project is about to schedule a pre-construction meeting. The recent pre-construction meeting was cancelled until further notice. At the pre-construction meeting, all the interested parties meet to discuss the start date. After this meeting, the County’s Procurement Department will issue a Notice to Proceed for construction.

Other than the 600 feet included in the intersection improvements, this road will not be four-laned further north. There are also no additional plans to four-lane CR 225A further north of the new road at NW 44th Ave. This section of CR 225A is not located in the Farmland Preservation Area.

2. NW 80th Ave. and Hwy. 40

This project will consist of improving the intersection and approaches at Hwy. 40 and NW 80th Ave. The design of this intersection improvement will be similar to the intersection improvements at NW 70th Ave./CR 225A and US 27, but they are not complete; thereby no plans are available for viewing.

3. Four-Lane of NW 70th Ave./NW 80th Ave.

NW 70th Ave./NW 80th Ave. will be four-laned from SW 80th St. to 600 feet North of US 27. This project is in the design/survey phase and is predicted to start in 2023 or 2024.

4. New I-75 Interchange at NW 49th St./NW 35th St.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is building this new interchange. Steven Buck is the Project Manager at FDOT. This interchange will extend from the NW 35th St. extension that Marion County is constructing, which ends at the Amazon warehouse. The new street will go through the mining operation. This new FDOT interchange will go over I-75, via a bridge, from NW 35th St. on the east side and it will tie into the existing NW 49th St. on the west side of I-75.

This is a diverging diamond interchange configuration. Marion County has requested that the interchange include design features that will help the County further define it’s identity as the Horse Capital of the World® such as live oak “canopy” trees rather than palm trees for landscaping and three-board fencing rather than chain link fencing around the retention areas. These design features will help the interchange serve as a gateway into the area.

On the west side of I-75, a new intersection at NW 49th St. and NW 44th Ave. will be built. Traffic will have access to NW 44th Ave., which runs parallel to I-75 and connects to US 27 and Hwy. 326.

The project is in the design phase and it is fully funded for all phases (design, right of way and construction.) Construction is anticipated to begin in December of 2024. The cost of the project is approximately $40 million for construction.

5. Future Connection of CR 225A to NW 49th St./NW 44th Ave.

This road project is funded by Marion County. The connection of CR 225A to the new intersection at NW 49th St./NW 44th Ave. is under design. A preliminary engineering report presenting various options was developed by Guerra Development Corp. and accepted by the Marion County Board of County Commissioners during 2010.

Funding of eventual construction is planned to take place at two intervals:

  1. NW 49th St. (1.1 mi west of NW 44th Ave. to NW 44th Ave.), Phase 3A for FY 2020/21, length = 1.1 miles.
  2. NW 49th St. (CR 225A to 1.1 mi west of NW 44th Ave.), Phase 3B for FY 2022/23, length = 2.3 miles.

This video rendering from the FDOT illustrates how a diverging diamond intersection works.

Learn More

This is the most up to date information obtained from the Marion County Engineering Department and the Florida Department of Transportation. However, all schedules are subject to change, based upon funding. Marion County’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) is updated yearly.

Florida Department of Transportation – District 5 HQ (Deland) – 386-943-5171

Ocala/Marion TPO (Transportation & Planning Organization) – 352-438-2630

Marion County Office of the County Engineer  – 352-671-8686

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.

Join the herd. Every voice matters.

Public Hearing Notice: I75 Interchange at NW 49th Street

A Chance to Comment on the I75 Interchange at NW49th Street

On Wednesday, November 18, 5:30 to 7:30 pm, a public hearing will take place. We will be there as FDOT shares the results of their study. The public is invited to comment on the “the location, conceptual design, and social, economic and environmental effects of the proposed improvements.” We intend to suggest some improvements that would make the interchange a fitting gateway for the Horse Capital of the World® and the Farmland Preservation Area. It is our intention always to work collaboratively and affect positive change where necessary to protect Marion County’s global brand. Instructions for participation in person and virtually are in the hearing notice below:

Dear Government Partner:

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) invites you to a public hearing regarding the Interstate 75 (I-75) at NW 49th Street Interchange Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study. The location of the proposed interchange is at NW 49th Street, approximately two miles north of the I-75 and U.S. 27 interchange in Marion County. The public hearing will be held on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The purpose of the PD&E Study is to evaluate proposed improvement alternatives for the I-75 at NW 49th Street Interchange. This hearing is being conducted to give interested persons an opportunity to express their views concerning the location, conceptual design, and social, economic and environmental effects of the proposed improvements. The preferred alternative consists of a new diverging diamond interchange with on and off ramps to NW 49th Street, similar to a traditional diamond interchange. However, along NW 49th Street, the two directions of traffic crossover, or diverge, to the opposite side at the on/off ramps.

The Department is offering two ways for the community to participate in the hearing. Interested persons may join the Virtual Public Hearing (VPH) from a computer, tablet or phone. Or, they may participate in person by going to the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion, 2232 NE Jacksonville Road, Ocala, Florida 34470. All participants, regardless of platform they choose, will participate in the same live hearing.

A VPH is a free live presentation or webinar over the internet. If you wish to participate in the VPH online from a computer, tablet or mobile device, registration is required in advance by going to: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8139573940021629453. Once registered, participants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the VPH online. At this time, Internet Explorer is not supported by GoToWebinar, and the link for the meeting will not work on this platform. Please use an alternate web browser to register and attend the meeting. For participants who are unable to attend the webinar, they can listen to the hearing by calling (562) 247-8422 and entering access code 505-938-223 when prompted. Please note, while the call-in number is listen-only, callers may submit comments directly to the project manager by using the contact information listed below.

For those who choose to participate in person, the Department requests advance registration to ensure all attendees are accommodated safely and according to social distancing guidelines. Attendees will be asked to follow all safety and sanitation guidelines as well as adhere to any local ordinances. To register for the in-person option, please contact FDOT Project Manager Amy L. Windom, P.E., by phone at (386) 943-5074 or via email at amy.windom@dot.state.fl.us. Attendees who are not feeling well should not attend the in-person meeting.

The VPH and in-person meeting location open at 5:30 p.m. on November 18. A formal narrated PowerPoint presentation will begin promptly at 5:45 p.m., followed by a formal public comment period. If joining online, please provide adequate log-in time to view the presentation in its entirety.

All meeting materials, including the presentation, will be available on the project website at www.cflroads.com/project/435209-1 by November 20, 2020.

The project documents (draft environmental and engineering reports) are available for public review at the following locations:

  1. Ocala Public Library, 2720 East Silver Springs Boulevard, Ocala, FL 34470 (Monday – Thursday, 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
  2. DeLand Library, 130 E. Howry Avenue, DeLand, FL 32724 (Monday – Thursday, 9:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
  3. Online at www.cflroads.com/project/435209-1

Persons wishing to submit written statements, in place of or in addition to oral statements, may do so at the hearing or by sending them to Amy L. Windom, P.E., FDOT Project Manager, via email at amy.windom@dot.state.fl.us, or by U.S. Mail to 719 S. Woodland Boulevard, Mail Station 501, DeLand, FL 32720. While comments about the project are accepted at any time, please send your comments by December 1, 2020 to be included in the records for this public hearing.

Public participation is solicited without regard to race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, disability, or family status. Persons wishing to express their concerns relative to FDOT compliance with Title VI may do so by contacting Jennifer Smith, FDOT District Five Title VI Coordinator at Jennifer.Smith2@dot.state.fl.us.

Persons who require accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or persons who require translation services (free of charge) should contact Amy L. Windom, P.E., FDOT Project Manager, at 386-943-5074 or amy.windom@dot.state.fl.us at least seven (7) days prior to the hearing.

The environmental review, consultation, and other actions required by applicable federal environmental laws for this project are being, or have been, carried out by the FDOT pursuant to 23 U.S.C. §327 and a Memorandum of Understanding dated December 14, 2016 and executed by the Federal Highway Administration and FDOT.

We encourage you to participate in the I-75 at NW 49th Street Interchange PD&E Study public hearing. If you have any questions or comments about the project, please contact Amy L. Windom, P.E., FDOT Project Manager, at 386- 943-5074 or amy.windom@dot.state.fl.us.

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.

Join the herd. Every voice matters.

In Praise of Pink – Northern Turnpike Connector Report for April

Florida’s M-CORES Northern Turnpike Corridor Task Force met virtually on Wednesday, April 29. We were there monitoring the action. The meeting covered four general topics:

The best news for Ocala Horse Country came in the first topic. Here is the latest map of the areas that M-CORES is committed to avoid:

That great, big block of hot pink at the top of the map is the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA) in Marion County. Hot pink areas will not be impacted by the proposed Northern Turnpike Corridor. Our FPA ranks right up there with springs, military bases, tribal lands and national register sites. A lot of landowners, community leaders and organizations came together to get this highest level of avoidance designation. We are proud to be numbered among them. We will continue to gather those voices and bring them to the table as discussions continue.

The entire meeting presentation can be found here.

The second topic brought forth the concept of Attraction Areas: places where a connection to or service by an enhanced or new corridor is desired to accomplish economic, community, environmental, or other goals. Then, the participants were introduced to an online GIS tool that anyone can use to see more. Members of the Task Force will be using this tool to consolidate their input. Interested parties are encouraged to do their homework and get feedback in to the Task Force.

This is not over. Follow along as we work to keep the best interests of Marion County’s farmland and horse industry at the forefront. Roadway and development threats to the FPA continue to crop up on other fronts. Stay tuned!

Levy County Votes to Reject Toll Roads

This article from the Florida Phoenix lays out the latest in the toll road debate.

Highlights:

Two of the roads are supposed to cut through rural Levy County, near Ocala. But Levy commissioners voted 3-2 on Tuesday to say they do not want them — primarily because of the development they would bring.

“I don’t want to see Levy County become another Tampa Bay, and that’s what’s going to happen if we don’t stand up and say no,” said Levy commissioner Lilly Rooks, who brought up the resolution.

“There’s really no strong appetite for these roads,” said Charles Lee of Audubon Florida, who sits on one of the advisory groups appointed to study the toll roads.

Yet…

To Galvano, the economic disaster caused by the pandemic is an argument for building the roads anyway — just to provide badly needed jobs for Floridians thrown out of work by the pandemic.

“As Florida moves forward from the coronavirus, economic development opportunities like M-CORES, and the jobs created both during and after construction, will be critical to our recovery,” the Republican senator said.