PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Reduced speed zone school signs will be installed near Nease High School until construction can begin on a stoplight at an intersection that has raised safety concerns for the Ponte Vedra Beach community, according the Florida Department of Transportation.
Though the timetable to decide on a contractor who will install the traffic light at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Ray Road has been moved up from Sept. 2017 to July 2017, the actual construction may not begin for nearly a year, said FDOT public information officer Ron Tittle on Friday.
Frustration has continued to grow for the high school's students and parents since two teenagers were critically injured earlier this month in a crash at the intersection. They ask how many more accidents have to occur at the dangerous intersection until a stoplight is finally installed?
Documents show that parents have been begging FDOT to install a light since 2011. Surveys were been conducted, and FDOT officials approved the installation of a stoplight in May.
Tittle asked the community to be patient and understand the project will take some time. As of Friday, he said, the project design plans were about 60 percent complete.
"Our set design engineer is reviewing it and they have to incorporate in there," Tittle said. "Do you have to move utility lines? Those types of things so that's all incorporated in there. So there's a lot of work that has to be done."
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Mackenzie Felmet, 17, and Sydney Felmet, 15, were critically injured and a 39-year-old man was seriously injured in the Oct. 7 crash at the intersection. Since then, Tittle said, FDOT has decided to choose a contractor a few months earlier than anticipated.
Once FDOT selects a contractor next July, it will then be 90 to 120 days before the contractor can begin construction on the stoplight, Tittle said.
Jessica Moltisinti, who owns Zone Cheer All Stars at the corner of the intersection, said she wishes the light would come sooner, but is relieved to know there are plans in place.
"It will be great because it will ease our hearts to know the kids and the parents will be coming in a safer manner and to know that the light has been put there to make it safe for everybody," Moltisinti said.
The speed limit at the busy intersection is 45 mph only during school hours, but students' parents, like Bambi Deitch, said many drivers go 55 mph or over.
"We've been concerned about this intersection for a long time," said Deitch, mother of a Nease High student. "My daughter was in accident just outside the intersection. My husband was actually hit at the intersection and it's always been a concern of mine."
Due to the speed and safety concerns, a traffic operations engineer plans to submit a work order no later than Monday to FDOT's St. Augustine maintenance office to install reduced speed school zone ahead signs as soon as possible, Tittle said.
Many parents have expressed frustration, saying they were under the impression the light would be installed as soon as the end of this year, but FDOT said that was never the plan.
Several online petitions have also been created, including one made by an 11th-grader at Nease High, to have a traffic light installed at the intersection near the school's campus.
For any residents with specific questions about the light, they are able to call FDOT directly at 904-360-5457.