Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Group Hails Plans for Florida 13 Rerouting State Road Would Preserve Scenery

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Group Hails Plans for Florida 13 Rerouting State Road Would Preserve Scenery

Article excerpt

Environmentalists and members of a grass-roots committee working to preserve the beauty and history of Florida 13 in Northwest St. Johns County are guardedly enthusiastic about the revival of an old plan to reroute the state road down Roberts Road.

A two-year study looking for possible routes for a new, four-lane Florida 13 inland between the Shands Bridge and the intersection of Florida 13 and Roberts Road was started by the Florida Department of Transportation two weeks ago. If built, it would pull some of the heavy traffic that uses Florida 13 now and make it a tree-shaded, winding country lane.

That is exactly what the William Bartram Scenic Highway Corridor Group has been working on since late 1998, as it draws up a management plan that would limit growth and protect historic and scenic sites on the road.

"It is a good idea, and it is overdue," said chairwoman Mary Cornwell. "It was recommended back in 1988 by Gov. [Bob] Martinez that the county take over Florida 13 to have more protection and save the canopy of trees . . . We would like an alternative east of here to leave this winding road along the river untouched. Now it is like an interstate with tractor trailers."

Enticing traffic off Florida 13 with an alternate route would also allow people to stop at interesting sites along the current state road, said St. Johns County Audubon Society board member Don Beattie.

"The idea of preserving the old Florida 13 seems to be a good idea," he said. "The question is where will the other connecter go, and that is still open."

The Florida 13 alternate was first proposed in the 1980s, when traffic on the scenic roadway started to build as some of the first subdivisions were built in the Fruit Cove and Switzerland areas. The idea was tabled when that traffic eased up a decade later.

Now, as hundreds of new homes are planned along Florida 13 in planned communities like Riverton, Eastbourne and Westbourne, the idea has been revived, although there is no funding and no final plans. …

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