Newberry to go ahead with bidding, request traffic circle on SW 15th Avenue 

Newberry Commissioner Monty Farnsworth presided as mayor pro temp in Mayor Jordan Marlowe's absence.
Newberry Commissioner Monty Farnsworth presided as mayor pro temp in Mayor Jordan Marlowe's absence.
Photo by Glory Reitz

The Newberry City Commission unanimously approved an updated design for SW 15th Avenue in its regular meeting on Monday. With the approval, the commission also authorized the city manager to go ahead with bidding “when appropriate,” and to send a letter to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) requesting a traffic circle be included in its road improvement project on State Road 45. 

The stretch of road, covering about .63 miles, sees high traffic, especially in the early morning and mid-afternoon, when students are arriving at the three schools that use the road segment. Town residents trying to reach the state highway also use the same road. 

The city approved conceptual designs for the road improvement in January and contracted civil engineering firm EDA to create a plan. The plan is now 95% complete, with a remaining need for 1.81 acres of conveyance permission from the School Board of Alachua County, which is in progress. Staff expects to be ready to bid the work in spring of 2024. 

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Funding for the project is already included in the city’s FY 2023-24 budget

The design includes two 11-foot travel lanes, and turn lanes of the same width, with 103 angled parking spaces near the schools, and sidewalks and lighting on both sides of the street. 

Staff told the commission the parking was part of a plan to help slow down traffic on the road, in addition to a traffic circle on State Road 45 (US 27 / 41) at its intersection with SW 15 Avenue. Because that change would require state approval and cost Newberry a lot of money, staff recommends requesting FDOT include the traffic circle in its existing road improvement plans for SR 45. 

“They’re (FDOT) aware, but nothing formal,” City Manager Mike New said. “And we’d like to transmit a letter suggesting that they incorporate something similar to this. I think it’s less expensive for the citizens of Newberry to pay for a conceptual rendering than it is to construct it.” 

The road design is split into three portions, to be completed by three different entities.
Courtesy city of Newberry The road design is split into three portions, to be completed by three different entities.

The designed speed for the road will be 25 miles per hour, but the speed limit will likely be 20 MPH. 

New also said the traffic circle helps with the road realignment, straightening its path. The city had previously been preparing to ask citizens for use of varying portions of their land to straighten the road. 

In January, the commission also requested that SW 15th Avenue be extended to County Road 337, a change for which staff contracted a different engineering firm, and will report on in a future commission meeting. 

“If you go down there in the mornings and the afternoons, it’s a mess,” Armon Lowery, project manager, told the commission. “And so the whole idea is to eliminate that, and also get some through-traffic, and then once we build that next segment… that’s going to give us some more access from both ends of the street.” 

The commission also approved a request for a change on a water main upgrade project on SW 258th Street to improve fire flow for Newberry High School and the surrounding area. The project would replace an existing water main with a new eight-inch water main. 

The project was initially part of the FY 2022-23 capital improvement plan, with an estimated cost of $35,000 for survey, engineering and design, and $250,000 for construction. Because the city already had Andrews Paving Inc. under contract for a different water main project on 337, staff asked Andrews about pricing before going to bid. 

Andrews Paving quoted a price of $123,023.77, less than half the budget estimate, so upon staff’s recommendation, the commission authorized the city manager to execute the change order with Andrews. Staff estimated this action would also save at least 120 days by avoiding development, advertisement, evaluation and awarding of a bid for the project. 

Editor’s Note: this article’s headline was updated to use accurate terms.

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Roundabouts seem like so much trouble when people first encounter them, but after they get comfortable with how to use them – it’s surprising how easy they are to use and how much fuel/energy they save by avoiding complete starts and stops in the traffic flow. If implemented efficiently they can also reduce the felt ‘need for speed’ because commuters aren’t as anxious about being late to arrive at their destination and overall average speed is reduced.

Without as many traffic congestion lights (aka stop lights) there can also be fewer accidents due to that congestion. There are many positive sides to using roundabouts and traffic circles.

I am a little surprised there isn’t a political action committee put together by the companies that sell traffic signals like there is for Road & Highway Construction Contractors.