Bumper to bumper: County runs through Blanding Boulevard

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 1/12/22

CLAY COUNTY – State Road 21 is a monster of a road, spanning the entire county and passing through several urban centers and economic areas.

While it impacts businesses and residents, it is also …

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Bumper to bumper: County runs through Blanding Boulevard

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – State Road 21 is a monster of a road, spanning the entire county and passing through several urban centers and economic areas.

While it impacts businesses and residents, it is also dangerous, and work on the road to accommodate the county’s rapid growth is as extensive as it is cumbersome. It cuts diagonally southwest from Orange Park to Keystone Heights via Middleburg, before ending near east of Hawthorne in Putnam County.

The state Department of Transportation is widening a 4.1-mile stretch of State Road 21 from Allie Murray Road to the north fork of Black Creek with a cost of $19 million. In a $16.4 million project, the agency is also in the process of widening and resurfacing roughly a mile of State Road 21 and County Road 218, from Black Creek’s south fork to Palmetto Street.

Both projects are expected to be completed this spring, FDOT spokeswoman Sarah Pleasants said. Blanding is also the launch point for the next leg of the First Coast Expressway to State Road 16, which is expected to be completed in 2025.

“Definitely, Clay County is growing and these projects are adding capacity to a road that’s congested,” Pleasants said. “A lot of it is to make room in the county for the growth throughout the region.”

The county has two bonded transportation program projects close to Blanding slated for this summer. At $21.1 million, the county aims to complete County Road 218 road widening from Cosmos Avenue to Pine Tree Lane, and road widening on County Road 220 from Baxley Road to Henley Road for $13.1 million.

At Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners, commissioners received an update on the design and permitting process for both. Commissioner Betsy Condon later asked if there were mitigation measures, like nighttime construction, for the County Road 218 project.

“Each one of the projects has their own intricacies,” Bonded Transportation Program Administrator Edwin Dendor told commissioners. “I won’t tell you we’re doing every (project) at night. It’s not one size fits all, but we will bring each one of the defined projects for each defined area and have a plan for you.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 2009 to 2019, there were 49 fatalities on State Road 21 in Clay County, with two in Melrose and eight in the Bradford County portion. In that 10-year period, there were also six fatalities on the Duval County portion of Blanding from the county line, near the Ortega River, to Interstate 295.

Betsy Condon, whose district encompasses most of Blanding, told the Clay Today that residents she talked to are concerned about safety and ongoing roadwork.

“For people already living there, safety is a concern,” Condon said. “From the sheriff’s office, we’ve heard crime is down and accidents are up.”

It’s not sensitive to people who have to commute, she added, and the area around Blanding will only continue to grow.

“Obviously, it’s one of our main arteries just like Highway 17,” Condon said. “We know progress is coming with the widening and making it safer for residents.”

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