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NEWBERRY – On May 23, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) presented commissioners with alternative suggestions to help move traffic through Newberry more efficiently.

Although their Project Development and Environmental (PD&E) study is not yet complete, FDOT presented alternatives as a way to obtain feedback from the City's public officials regarding the alternatives under consideration.

FDOT began the study in late 2014 and has since conducted three public meetings to obtain comments from Newberry's citizens. Those comments were taken under consideration in developing the alternatives.

An earlier PD&E study conducted in 2007 examined several alternative alignments for increasing the capacity of State Road 26. One alternative considered at that time was construction of a bypass around Newberry's downtown district. Another alternative was construction of one-way pairs (a split highway featuring two lanes of traffic moving one-way east and west through Newberry).

Due to lack of state funding, the earlier study was put on hold.

The bypass alternative suggested at that time is no longer viable due to the cost of land acquisition, approximately $150 million.

“At this time,” said Bryan Thomas, Newberry Planning Director, “the town has grown in such a way that some of those lands originally considered for a bypass are no longer available.”

FDOT said they want to preserve the historic district while improving mobility on State Road 26. The road is part of the evacuation plan for the west coast in case of emergency evacuation.

Some of the alternatives being considered include removal of on-street parking in downtown Newberry. Additional side street parking and acquisition of additional paved and signed parking areas could be one answer to the parking issue. One benefit of removing on-street parking is that it would make room for a third turn lane to be installed at intersections.

If the one-way pairs concept is chosen, it would begin at Northwest 264th Street, west of downtown Newberry, and end near the park & ride lot east of U.S. 41. State Road 26 (West Newberry Road) would become a one-way eastbound street, with two 12-ft. travel lanes, a bicycle lane on the south side of the street and on-street parking on the north side of the street. Northwest First Avenue would become a one-way westbound street, with two 11-ft. travel lanes and a bicycle lane on the north side of the street.

The proposed improvements could also include a roundabout at CR 337.

In discussing the alternatives, Thomas said, “There are some very good potential benefits and some potential downsides to all of the alternatives. The downsides can be mitigated with advanced planning.”

Commissioners were not asked to make a decision as to which plan was best for Newberry, but were asked to provide adequate feedback to FDOT to allow them to go back to the study and come back later with more detailed plans for consideration.

The limits of the PD&E study extend from the Gilchrist County line to County Road 26A, approximately four miles, and is being funded by FDOT.

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