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December 19, 2013

HamCo Commissioners address traffic issues at Love’s

Jasper — Traffic issues at the I-75-US 129 interchange due to large volumes of trucks patronizing Love’s Truck Plaza was a topic of discussion at the Dec. 3 meeting of the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners.

Commissioner Buster Oxendine said the matter had been discussed in November and more recently with the proprietors of Love’s Truck Plaza. He recalled an incident not too long ago when he was returning home from Jacksonville and attempting to get off I-75 at that interchange and came upon many large trucks that were backed up in front of him on the exit ramp. In light of recent news about PotashCorp’s cutbacks, Oxendine said he thought the board should re-address the matter and make it a top priority.

“As of right now, we can’t accommodate another business there the way it’s set up,” said Oxendine. “We have to eliminate the issue. We all want that exit to grow.”

Oxendine said the Hamilton County Economic Development Authority has already expressed interest in helping to get the matter resolved.

The original design was approved by the Florida Department of Transportation, as well as Love’s, but Oxendine said it isn’t working.

The board agreed that the next step is to contact the owners of the adjacent properties to see if they would be willing to work with the county to help resolve the issue. The county would like to add another access road to make ingress into Love’s easier and safer for everyone concerned.

Commission Chair Josh Smith said that county engineer Greg Bailey had contacted the FDOT soon after Love’s was built to request the ingress and egress be larger.

“The FDOT actually said it was sufficient for the amount of traffic and the usage of the road,” said Smith. “So, there was no help from the FDOT.”

Oxendine suggested they contact Jordan Green from FDOT to let him know the county wasn’t going to drop the issue.

“We’re coming back with a proposal,” said Oxendine. “So, they may as well be involved from the get-go.”

Oxendine said Love’s is too valuable an asset to the county to let the matter go and lose potential future business because of the ingress and egress issues.

Bailey said during original negotiations Love’s specifically stated that if they couldn’t have the entrance where they wanted it, then they wouldn’t build in Hamilton County. FDOT, he added, preferred that Love’s be built farther away from the interstate entrance and exit ramps, however, they eventually agreed to do it the way Love’s wanted it.

To build an access road beyond the retention pond, Bailey said, could cost upwards of $600,000. He suggested the county get with the economic development board and come up with a plan of action before contacting FDOT.

Oxendine said he’s sure FDOT has noticed there is a definite issue and is hopeful everyone can come to a workable resolution to the problem. Bailey said he thought it was a doable project as long as everyone worked together. The board agreed to have Bailey draw up plans and present them at the first day meeting in January, hopefully with representatives from the economic development board present at the meeting, as well.

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