Byline: David Bauerlein
Northwest St. Johns County residents eager for direct access to the Florida 9B highway will get a look at the state's new plan next month.
But the state Department of Transportation does not have any money set aside in the coming years for construction of the 9B leg in St. Johns County - a road that would benefit both commuters and the planned Bass Pro Shops mega-store.
Until the project gets funding, Florida 9B will remain out of reach from St. Johns County roads, even as construction in Jacksonville brings the highway tantalizingly closer to the county line.
The state has scheduled an April 9 public meeting to show the latest proposed route for 9B in St. Johns County.
St. Johns County Public Works Director Joe Stephenson said Bass Pro's interest in building a 104,000-square-foot store bolsters the county's case for completing 9B. But he said the county has long viewed 9B as essential for residents.
"It's incredibly important to the northwest sector of St. Johns County, with or without Bass Pro," he said.
Bass Pro Shops officials did not return phone calls about how their plans to open a St. Johns County store by summer 2014 would be affected by the timing of work on 9B or any other roads.
Despite the lack of construction funding, Stephenson said the project is moving in the right direction because the state's newest plan would take 9B all the way to St. Johns Parkway.
"We've gotten some traction over the last year," he said.
Florida 9B begins at Interstate 295 on the Southside. The first leg between I-295 and Philips Highway will open to traffic in the summer. The second segment from Philips to Interstate 95 will start construction this year and be finished in early 2016.
The second phase will extend 9B toward the St. Johns County line, but it will stop short of connecting with Race Track Road, which serves the north side of the county. …