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Road rage

Residents angry by delays, heavy traffic on Sandridge Road

By Lee Wardlaw lee@claytodayonline.com
Posted 6/15/23

LAKE ASBURY – Traffic shutdown at the intersection of Sandridge and Henley roads has separated multiple neighborhoods, has caused a traffic nightmare and made it extremely difficult for residents …

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Road rage

Residents angry by delays, heavy traffic on Sandridge Road


Posted

LAKE ASBURY – Traffic shutdown at the intersection of Sandridge and Henley roads has separated multiple neighborhoods, has caused a traffic nightmare and made it extremely difficult for residents living in the area to access grocery stores and gas stations.

That issue was discussed during the public comment period and Ed Dendor’s Bonded Transportation Program Update at the County Commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday night.

The construction started May 31 and will continue until July 30.

Residents have to travel as many as 10 miles to access basic services, depending on where they live.

“Subway is 0.7 miles from my house, and in order for me to get there, I have to drive 9.4 miles. It’s just insane to me that we can’t go up to the corner store for gas. There’s nowhere for us to go, and it’s just insane for me that the detour is going to last for the remainder of the summer,” said resident Marrisa Hunt.

With 2,000 students in the area and two schools (Lake Asbury Elementary and Lake Asbury Junior High), the project is taking place during the summer so that it can be completed in time for the school year.

That’s the hope, at least.

“This is basically an eight-week process with six weeks to go. Heavy coordination with the Sheriff’s Office, Fire and Rescue, Clay Utilities and the school board will continue,” Dendor said.

As of Thursday, the intersection would remain closed for another 41 days if everything stays on schedule.

The work area on Sandridge Road is about 150 yards.

During his update, Dendor said Kiewit Construction, which is based in Jacksonville, is making “good progress.”

For now, residents can choose from traveling on Sandridge and Russell roads to get anywhere. Residents said trips usually take more than 30 minutes.

Another option wouldn’t have been much better. It called for traffic to be narrowed to one lane and take 18 months.

There’s nowhere for residents to turn, even to get groceries.

Commissioner Kristen Burke asked Dendor if the section between the Eagle Haven neighborhood and Branscomb Road could open for residents to get to the Winn-Dixie.

Safety is of utmost importance. With daily changes in the construction zone, it won’t open until the project is completed.

“Asphalt is stacked 10 feet high. We wouldn’t want to release traffic into a construction zone that a contractor has control over. Safety is paramount for the traveling public and school children,” he said.

Burke also told Sheriff Michelle Cook said she has received hundreds of emails about it during the last few days, and for good reason. That’s because residents are angry.

Burke admitted knows the decision isn’t made completely by the Sheriff’s Office, but also the Safety Team.

Cook said that keeping residents safe is the top priority despite the inconvenience.

“(The road) was now becoming a safety issue, and the fact that construction was moving along at the end of the day, we had to make sure that (drivers) at night or dusk, or when there’s bad light, don’t go into a culvert that’s been dug or (they) run over pipes that have been exposed,” she said.

She said the Sheriffs’ Office, Public Safety, Engineers, County Manager, and other officials involved came together to make the decision.

Even worse, the stop light at the chaotic intersection of County Road 209 and Sandridge has been broken.

The stop light is outside the project’s boundaries, Dendor said.

Deputies are currently being assigned to the location during peak hours. The lights have been put back into the mechanism. It will remain flashing for 30 days before it goes back into service, which is how the light is programmed.

“I wish I had enough deputies to put there all the time, but I don’t,” Cook said.

With some residents being seemingly trapped inside their neighborhoods, the melee has caused residents to attempt to drive around barricades and cut through construction zones, Cook said. The county had to hire an off-duty deputy to assign to the location to prevent this from happening more.

“Some folks say, ‘Let residents back there.’ That’s a slippery slope because if you invite somebody over and ‘they had permission, they didn’t,’ and somebody gets into an accident. I mean it’s a tough situation, it’s very frustrating. I completely understand, and what I would tell you is that every person involved wants this to hurry up and get done, and get it done right,” the sheriff said.

Baylor Alexander said they originally planned to place detour signs but very shortly saw it wouldn’t work.

“We had all of the commercial traffic from the road construction on the new interstate coming through and it backed up the neighborhood. In the first couple of days there was a crash, and the fire truck almost flipped trying to get in there and avoid people (and) it was going through people’s yards,” he said.

Police and emergency vehicles can access the roads, which are closed on both ends with a combination code. A fire truck accessed a car wreck within six minutes from Station 15 in Lake Asbury, according to Deputy Fire Chief David Motes, Alexander said.

Deputies are on hand at all hours to address safety, he said.

It has even caused some residents outrage to the point of pulling a gun. The Sheriff’s Department is just protecting construction workers at this point.

“Some of that, too, is or threats. There’s been people threatening the construction workers. We had a gun pulled on one of them, so we’re kind of protecting them at this point,” Alexander said.

Burke questioned Dendor if the project was poorly planned. He said the $31 million project took two-and-a-half years of planning.

“There are hundreds of hours of work and planning with road and highway engineers, the environmental team, and the entire team. This was not just put together overnight,” he said.