FDOT hosts open house on St. Augustine’s upcoming intersection improvement project


With construction on St. Augustine’s San Marco Avenue, May Street and West San Carlos Avenue intersection to soon begin, project representatives have a simple message for Beaches residents who regularly visit the Ancient City.

“Be patient,” said Randy Downing, an engineer from Hanson Professional Services, the design consultant for the project. “It’s going to take a while for this to happen. It might be a little bit more inconvenient. In the long run, we’re hoping this will be a huge improvement.”

Downing was one of several representatives on hand to discuss the project at an Aug. 16 open house hosted by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The owner of the intersection property, FDOT gathered representatives from its various contractors involved in the intersection improvement project, as well as a subsequent drainage improvement project on May Street, to inform St. Johns County residents about timeframes, construction activities, traffic impacts and other details. Officials from Petticoat-Schmitt Civil Contractors, Inc. the primary contractor of both projects, as well as representatives from Jacobs and JEA Construction Engineering Services (JEAces) attended.  

Construction of the new intersection configuration will begin in mid-September and is scheduled to be open for operation in summer 2018. Upon the opening of the intersection, the drainage project, which consists of the replacement of a storm water pipe on the north side of May Street from San Marco Avenue to east of Magnolia Avenue, will begin and is expected to be complete in summer 2019.

Downing characterized the new intersection as a that will decrease the number of cycles in traffic lights and ultimately alleviate the traffic that consistently accumulates there. Contrary to popular belief, the engineer emphasized that the intersection is not a roundabout because it will feature traffic signals and be more of an oblong shape.

“This is a very special kind of intersection,” said Downing, who added the intersection will address growth for the next 20 years. “There’s not really a true typical descriptor for it. It’s one of the few in the state.”

According to FDOT, the loop will feature dedicated right and left turn lanes; median additions and modifications; synchronized and interconnected traffic signals; new and rebuilt sidewalks; shared bicycle lanes; and High-Intensity Activated crossWalk (HAWK) signals.

Project representatives at the open house also noted that the intersection will include two left turn lanes and one right turn lane on West San Carlos Avenue to enable drivers to more efficiently head south and north on U.S. 1. In addition, the entrance/exit to the St. Johns County Library that’s currently on West San Carlos will be removed, and two new entrances/exits (driveways) will be added on U.S. 1.

During the construction, Downing said the objective is to keep the same number of lanes open that are currently there to keep traffic moving. Of course, he said, any construction will cause some slowdowns. His recommendation for Beaches residents using the Francis and Mary Usina Bridge to head into downtown St. Augustine is to do so during nonpeak times or use the Nocatee Parkway to connect to U.S. 1.

Residents at the meeting had varying opinions on the project. Vilano Beach resident Lisa Lloyd said there are many good aspects about it.

“Changing the library entrance, adding the extra lane to go south on U.S. 1 from West San Carlos…there are a lot of good things that will be helpful,” she said.

Over the last several months, Lloyd has been adamantly advocating for the removal of the traffic barricades that were added to North Magnolia, Douglas and West San Carlos avenues in November 2016, claiming they have only worsened the traffic woes on May Street and created an unsafe traffic situation for beach residents. Acknowledging that the barriers will now probably not be removed, Lloyd thinks they should be closed off to prevent motorists from maneuvering around the barricades illegally, which she said is a common practice today. According to City of St. Augustine representatives at the meeting, no plans are currently in place to move or change the barriers.

St. Augustine resident and San Marco Avenue business owner Bill Ferrigno is not so optimistic about the new intersection, especially during its construction.

“I expect a mess,” he said. “It’s not going to stop tourists from coming. It will be a mess for two years.”

For more information about the projects, visit www.nflroads.com. If you have any questions, contact FDOT Public Information Officer Debbie Delgado at (904) 831-3368 or debbie.delgado@dot.state.fl.us