GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – If you went to the Clay County Agricultural Fair this weekend, you probably got caught in traffic jams on State Road 16, which is the only road in or out of the fair.
With more than 20,000 people traveling to the fair on Sunday alone, you may be wondering if the road will ever be expanded to more than two lanes.
Just west of the fairgrounds there is a major interchange project happening right now where the new First Coast Expressway will eventually be completed. It passes over S.R. 16. The First Coast Expressway is the major road project designed to connect Interstate 10 west of Jacksonville with St. Johns County at Interstate 95. The section that runs through Clay County is currently being built and will stretch from Blanding Boulevard (State Road 21) to the Shands Bridge.
News4Jax spoke with the Florida Department of Transportation about the expected completion of the project that could help with traffic. But the section that would impact S.R. 16 won’t be complete until around 2025.
“Completion is 2025. There has not been discussion of would we open the roadway in segments as it’s completed,” said state Department of Transportation spokesperson Sara Pleasants.
Drivers who spent long periods of time trying to get in and out of the fair over the weekend were sounding off in the News 4 Clay County Facebook group.
“Unbearable, won’t do it again. NEVER,” wrote one commenter.
Another wrote: “The worst!!!! So much confusion and no one is patient!!!!”
News4Jax also spoke with Donna Burnette, who lives in a neighborhood not far from the fairgrounds. She said a lot of locals know how to bypass S.R. 16, but widening it could help.
“It’s a good distance to the ag center from here, and they will go all the way down over that hill,” she said.
FDOT told News4Jax that there are no plans to widen S.R. 16 in discussion at this point, and if there were any, widening could take many years.
This issue could come to a head, however, beyond the annual county fair. Green Cove Springs is about to experience unprecedented population growth as a result of the First Coast Expressway’s expected completion. The town is expecting to add thousands of new residents in the coming year.