ORANGE PARK – Three years since the conception of the project, Orange Park’s River Road will finally see its massive facelift come to fruition.
In 2012, Orange Park Town Council requested a pavement analysis of all town streets, which ended with 26 roads identified as being in poor or very poor condition. As a result, the town implemented a resurfacing and general street-repair program for all of these roads. As of last December, only eight roads remained in the poor category. One of those roads is River Road, but after a motion that passed 3-1 at Town Council’s Oct. 2 meeting, with council member Connie Thomas absent, the project contract has finally been awarded.
Jacksonville-based contractor J.B. Coxwell Contracting was awarded the bid for the $1.95 million resurfacing project. The project includes pavement removal and reconstruction, pavement milling and resurfacing, drainage modifications, new curbs and gutters, a new sidewalk, the removal and replacement of residential driveways, the replacement of water mains, fire hydrants and water services, and the replacement of the sanitary force main.
“Different things happen in different sections of the road, but overall the residents’ wishes were 18 feet wide, so 9-foot lanes, and a 6-foot walking path,” said Town Manager Sarah Campbell. “There are no trees that have to be removed as part of the project, although we do have some that are diseased that we may address during the project.”
This project, which is approximately 1.36 miles in length, will take about roughly eight months to complete. However, town officials do not have an exact start date yet. A start date won’t be announced for at least a month as a pre-construction meeting must be held first, Campbell said.
While the motion to award the contract was passed, it wasn’t without a fair share of pushback from residents beforehand. Residents and council members spent more than an hour of the meeting discussing the contract. According to some River Road residents, the inclusion of ribbon curbing, a special type of curb that stabilizes pavement and prevents the edges of asphalt from crumbling, was tacked on to the contract at the last minute.
However, town council meeting minutes as far back as June indicate that the council spoke with River Road residents about the use of ribbon curbing. Some argues that the ribbon curbing unnecessarily inflated the cost of the project. Without the curbing, the cost would have been roughly $1.8 million.
After the discussion centered on ribbon curbing, Council Member Roland Mastandrea explained his hesitation with the project design and cited the 9-foot lanes as a negative. According to Mastandrea, the lanes should be 10 feet wide.
“Our own experts in this town and the people we hired to write the project, and our own fire department, feel that 10 feet is what should be there for the safety of the people,” Mastandrea said.
While 10 feet is the Florida Department of Transportation lane width minimum, FDOT does allow variances for special cases. The council sees River Road as a special case in this situation, which is why its lane width will be 9 feet instead of 10. According to Raymond, the smaller width prevents River Road from becoming a speedy detour from U.S. Highway 17 as the tighter lanes will naturally cause drivers to slow down. It also allows for the distance between cars and pedestrians on the sidewalks to be larger.
In other business, town council signed another contract with Advanced Disposal that will see the trash company handle the town’s garbage for at least another five years, with the possibility of a five-year extension near the end of the original five years. The council, who in the past has complained about Advanced Disposal’s services, said that the company has improved its service levels and provides a service unlike what the company provided in the past.
“It’s a whole lot better than it was at the beginning of the contract,” Raymond said.
Council member Alan Watt disagreed with the rest of the council. According to Watt, for years, Advanced Disposal has provided unsatisfactory service and a few months of good service is not enough for him to forget that.
When it came time for a motion, the council voted 3-1 to hire Advanced Disposal to handle the town’s trash for at least another five years.