STARKE, Fla. – A new, 7-mile truck route around Starke, west of U.S.301, is well underway, with parts of the highway paved. While the goal of the project is to alleviate heavy traffic in downtown Starke, some residents fear local businesses will be hurt.
While some people living in Starke are excited for less traffic in downtown, others are concerned that local businesses, like Powell's Dairy Freeze, will lose customers.
The family-owned, drive-up restaurant has become a staple in the city, attracting travelers and locals for good food and shakes. Now, some people think the new truck route will detour potential customers.
"It's engineered for people to get on the bypass easily. It is not engineered for people to get through Starke who want to. They're the ones that have to go out of their way to get to downtown Starke," said resident Ron Kimbrell.
Bernadette Smith, of Starke, feels the same. "I think it's going to be a problem," she said.
Others, including resident Tammy Sherrod, welcome the new truck route. "I think it's going to be a success - help get some of the big trucks out of Starke," she said.
Florida Department of Transportation officials said the new road was constructed with the safety and needs of residents and businesses alike in mind.
"Traffic we're taking off 301 are primarily truck traffic, and most of those vehicles aren't stopping at any of the local businesses," FDOT communications specialist Troy Roberts said.
He said there aren't any current plans for businesses to open along the truck route, but there could be some development in the future.
There has already been a change in traffic patterns on the north end of the Starke Truck Route along U.S.-301, where there's a detour. It's a sharp curve where the speed limit has been reduced to 10 mph. That will continue through the end of the project.
There are detours and traffic lights at the north and south end of the new truck route. The lights won't be activated until the project is complete in the summer of next year.