Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Roads Become a Worry; Nassau: Access to Island a Key Issue

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Roads Become a Worry; Nassau: Access to Island a Key Issue

Article excerpt

Byline: Alison Trinidad, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

Industrial and economic development on Amelia Island are in danger of stalling if road improvements on Florida A1A, from Interstate 95 to Amelia Island, don't keep up with population growth, officials said this week.

Nassau County and Fernandina Beach commissioners are worried that industry soon will be driven off the island if the Florida Department of Transportation doesn't take immediate action. But DOT officials say "immediate" isn't an option, and another 10 years could pass before the project is complete.

And they're still not sure exactly what needs to be done to improve traffic conditions, let alone how much it would cost.

But commissioners say they are tired of waiting and hope a little political pressure will push the project along. They decided last week during a joint planning meeting to organize a transportation summit that would gather the region's key players, including local industry leaders and state representatives. Slated for discussion are road improvements on Florida A1A from the interstate to the Port of Fernandina, and finding sources for funding.

Organizers plan to set a date for the summit at a convenient time for everyone they want to attend, and City Manager Robert Mearns said it could happen by early December.

"I want this to be well attended," said City Commissioner Ron Sapp. "It will allow us to organize ourselves; it allows us a chance to work together and network."

Sapp hopes rallying together will nudge the state to cut the project timeline in half, to five years instead of 10.

"It looks like they [state officials] are going to wait until it's way too late," Sapp said.

The Department of Transportation now is considering widening A1A from four to six lanes from the interstate to Amelia Island. A study released in August projected that four lanes would be unable to handle the traffic load by 2005.

Dale Johns, a DOT engineer, said the project has made the state priority list, but the problem is finding the money for it. Excluding the time it takes to secure funding, Johns said it takes three to five years to design a project before handling right-of-way issues and construction. …

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