Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School Site Traffic Figures Spark Debate; Area Very Dangerous, Coalition Told

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School Site Traffic Figures Spark Debate; Area Very Dangerous, Coalition Told

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon, Shorelines staff writer

Statistics showing an increase in traffic accidents on Florida A1A near the proposed site of a new high school helped fuel a shouting match at the Ponte Vedra Beaches Coalition meeting Monday.)

St. Johns County figures show that 348 accidents have occurred since 2000 along A1A between Solana Road and Butler Boulevard, the stretch of road where the School Board is considering building a new high school. The numbers of crashes have increased annually with the population.

Former St. Johns County Commissioner Mary Kohnke presented the figures at Monday's meeting and argued against putting a high school behind the Talbot's shopping center.

County Traffic Technician Mike Belcher confirmed he provided the statistics to Kohnke and that the numbers are accurate. In 2000, there were 71 accidents on that stretch of road; in 2001 there were 77; there were 89 in 2002 and last year, there were 96. So far this year, 15 crashes have been reported.

"There's nothing in the county that matches that" accident rate, Kohnke said.

"I think it's devastating. Both county commissioners and the School Board, under the Florida Constitution, are responsible for the safety, health and welfare of their citizens," Kohnke said. "As far as I'm concerned, anything that does anything to increase or add to it is a total abdication of . . . their responsibility."

Jim O'Toole, former vice president of the Beaches Coalition, said Kohnke could have pushed for building a Ponte Vedra Beach high school west of the Intracoastal Waterway while she was still a county commissioner until 2002, when she lost the election to Bruce Maguire.

"Our commissioner [Kohnke] washed her hands of it," O'Toole said.

"No I didn't!" Kohnke shouted back.

O'Toole argued the school could have gone west of the waterway, but Kohnke was in the majority of commissioners who approved the massive Nocatee development without provisions for a high school that could have served Ponte Vedra Beach. Nocatee will have a high school, primarily for the development's children.

"That lady turned a deaf ear," O'Toole said. …

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