BY JAMES HARPER
Many of the approximately 150 people at the John H Dickerson for a discussion on the overhaul of Orange Avenue were concerned about one thing.
Will Daytona Beach be using eminent domain to buy their private property for the $19.5 million project?
Daytona Beach Public Works Director Ron McLemore, project manager for the construction project, calmed their fears. He said there are no plans to do any construction renovations outside of city and county property in which the street and sidewalks already exist.
McLemore left the door open to the possibility of the city using eminent domain, saying construction of Orange Avenue from Nova Road to Beach Street is being done so that a future commission can expand or widen the thoroughfare if they choose to do so.
Frontage stays same
He said the city is not taking any frontage from property owners. Sidewalks will be widened within the right of way.
McLemore also noted that Orange Avenue from Nova Road to the railroad tracks is two lanes and 50 feet wide.
Residents asked about a bicycle path on the strip and turn lanes at every intersection. McLemore said such suggestions are not in the design but will be considered.
In reference to widening Orange Avenue from Nova Road to the railroad track, McLemore said since there are no funds in the current budget to purchase frontage; requests to have construction of this area go from two lanes to four lanes would kill the project.
Challenge for businesses
Barbara Turner-Hymes, a member of the Second Avenue Merchants Association, remembers when reconstruction of Second Avenue (now Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard) contributed to the closing of more than two-dozen business because patrons of the businesses had trouble getting to them. She said that forced a number of businesses on the thoroughfare out of business.
McLemore said there is no compensation in the budget for businesses that will lose money.
During construction, McLemore said the city’s goal is to keep access to businesses and private property owners.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but we are going to get it done. We must have maintenance of traffic plan. The plan has to be filed,” McLemore remarked.
The city has applied for a $13,143,000 loan from the state of Florida’s Revolving Funds to do the project. In addition, a $4,697,000 Florida Department of Transportation grant and a $1,660,000 Volusia County grant will go toward the project.
Dr. Irma Browne Jamison, a member of the Midtown Area Redevelopment Board, asked about $1 million out of its CRA (community redevelopment area) funds that have been set aside to be used in case the cost of project exceeds $19.5 million.
Jamison wanted to know why no CRA funds are being pulled from other redevelopment area’s coffers.
“There are no CRA funds in this project at all,” McLemore responded.
Jamison also said she wants the construction to begin at Nova Road.
“If it (construction) starts at Beach Street and they run out of funds, our section of Orange Avenue won’t get completed,” Jamison noted.
Starts in December
McLemore said it is yet to be determined which end the city will be starting constructions due to a number of issues that will have to be addressed by engineers and designers of the project.
He said reconstruction of the road is scheduled to start in December and is projected to last two years.
“It is a very complex project. That is why it will take two years,” said McLemore, noting that all the utilities underneath the street are aged and collapsing, and have to be addressed.
Construction will fix sewage leaking into water tables.
Safer, smoother ride
McLemore pointed out that historically Orange Avenue has high incidents of accidents, noting two people were killed in traffic accidents in the last five years.
The city’s goal for Orange Avenue is to optimize the quality of life and the economic development potential of Midtown through improved infrastructure.
He added that the roadway surface will be improved, guaranteeing a smoother ride for residents and no potholes or flooding.
Amenities that will be improved include enhanced walkability, wider sidewalks, replacement of underground utilities, elimination of pole conflicts in sidewalks, decorative lighting poles and fixtures along with decorative crosswalks and decorative traffic signal masts.
Questions were raised by blind residents and others with disabilities who want walk signals that are audible on all four corners of intersections with traffic lights.
McLemore said street and sidewalk lighting will be enhanced along with improved signalization with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant sidewalks and crosswalks, audible signal controls for visually impaired, and touch signal controls for the hearing impaired.
Thomas Huger, Daytona Beach’s Facilities Construction and Maintenance Manager, is the citizen liaison and contact person for community. He can be reached by calling the Public Works Department at 386-671-8600.