Officials try to find rush hour traffic remedy for US 17 at I-295

FDOT, Orange Park looks to alleviate backups in traffic hotspot

ORANGE PARK, Fla. – The Florida Department of Transportation is looking at several plans to alleviate rush hour traffic near U.S. 17 and Interstate 295 in Orange Park.

Some town officials have told News4Jax that spot is the biggest issue in Orange Park, but some locals think it's too expensive and there will never be a fix to the traffic nightmare that the area becomes during rush hour. 

Several drivers expressed their frustration about the "terrible" traffic.

"It's too busy over her for me. I try to stay away from this side."

"Traffic's horrendous over here."

"From what I'm hearing, there's not a fix," said another unnamed commuter. "It's too costly."

Despite that belief, Ron Tittle, with FDOT, said the agency is hopeful and have submitted two plans so far to Orange Park. 

"The bottom line is FDOT does care," Tittle said. "Our vision is to be congestion and fatality free."

Tittle said FDOT started trying to fix the problem late last week when all the lights from Naval Air Station Jacksonville to Kingsley Avenue were re-timed. 

"Through some of the studies, they look at getting input from last year," Tittle said. "So what we're doing, also, now is looking longer term. We've already had one public meeting, have another one coming up on the 23rd in Orange Park."

The state department first submitted one extensive plan to Orange Park's Town Council, which included tearing down the Parkway Inn -- a motel considered a public nuisance by the Council. 

"There's probably more traffic here than there is on most interstates in Jacksonville," said Orange Park Town Manager Jim Hanson. 

But Hanson said they shot that plan down because they don't want to remove any businesses that make up the tax base. 

"The town is very concerned about maintaining a commercial area. We would prefer to have less commercial property taken up by paving and retention ponds," he said. 

So, the latest plan involves a new stoplight at Elridge Avenue -- a small road that could become a useful bypass to Wells Road. 

"It won't require much extra ride of way and seems to be a much better proposal," Hanson said.

He said that will help with the problem that trickles down into neighborhoods throughout the town, which commuters cut through to bypass U.S. 17 -- another thing town government said is a problem. 

"Too many people moving in over here, I guess. That's the only thing I can figure," said an unnamed driver. 

FDOT will hold a public meeting with the Town Council at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Orange Park Town Hall at the corner of U.S. 17 and Kingsley Avenue. The public is invited to attend and give their input. 

A couple years ago, FDOT completed a widening of U.S. 17, which has helped some with the traffic pattern, but not nearly enough. There are also concerns because more southern areas, like Fleming Island and Green Cove Springs, keep building more houses, which ultimately means more commuter traffic. 

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