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Residents concerned over direction of expressway

First Coast Expressway to eventually connect Duval, Clay, St. Johns counties

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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A new highway aimed at making it easier to get around Northeast Florida has people in one St. Johns County community concerned it could change their way of life.

The First Coast Expressway is an $800 million project.

The initial phase, which will run through Jacksonville’s Westside and Clay County, is now under construction.

Eventually it will connect to St. Johns County, which is where residents had a chance to talk with the Florida Department of Transportation on Thursday night about the plans.

The expressway is supposed to ease congestion on Interstate 95, but many St. Johns County residents are worried about more traffic coming through their communities.

Many at the meeting Thursday were looking at the plans for the expressway and figuring out where their homes sit on the map, so they could know what’s next.

“I could see that it will alleviate some traffic probably, and that’s a good thing. It will also open up areas for new economic growth,” St. Johns County resident Mike Griggs said.

But opening up these areas for more cars to go through is something Dee Lucas doesn’t want for her small Orangedale neighborhood.

“I am concerned (about) the bridge and all the traffic it’s going to create and all the construction it’s going to create on our roads,” Lucas said. “It just seems like a never-ending project.”

Lucas said she is worried about the number of people who will use the expressway over the Shands Bridge near her home.

“It’s very peaceful and very quiet. That’s why we moved out there was to get away from the traffic, and we just love it out there,” Lucas said.

The FDOT said engineers are in the planning phases of what will become the St. Johns County portion of the expressway.

FDOT spokesman Ron Tittle said representatives hold meetings to make sure they are taking everything into account before breaking ground.

“How can we make it easier or whatever if we are going to inconvenience someone or something? Then we try to look at that, and we do make a diligent effort to try to resolve any concerns,” Tittle said.

Tittle said there isn’t funding for the St. Johns County portion of the expressway yet, so it will be a couple of years before anything happens.

“We are just doing this in increments and segments to continue building,” Tittle said. “This is going to be better and more of a convenience for travelers and help ease congestion.”

Residents who didn’t get a chance to attend Thursday's meeting can find the information online at http://firstcoastexpressway.com. Residents can also call a local district representative at 904-360-5457.