Newberry requests rural highway improvement program

Sixty years after his grandfather received a certificate of appreciation for donating land for the construction of CR 337 in Newberry, Mayor Jordan Marlowe and the rest of the Newberry Commission voted to request that Alachua County establish a rural highway improvement program and move that same road to the top of the list.

Newberry City Manager Mike New presented the idea during a regular meeting on Monday.

Sharp corners, crumbling pavement and no shoulders are at the top of the list of reasons why the two-lane road that is a popular shortcut between Newberry and Bronson is in dire need of repair, New said.

“When we want a certain road paved, chipped, sealed, nearly every time we say the appropriate time to talk about that is during budget planning,” New said.

Now that budget planning season is in full swing for local governments and Alachua County, New presented a resolution to ask the Alachua Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) for two things: First, to establish an annual rural highway resurfacing and improvement program with appropriate funding, and second, to move widening and repair of CR 337 to the top of that list.

Alachua and Levy counties share the maintenance of CR 337. Alachua County’s portion starts at Highway 26 (Newberry Road), just west of downtown Newberry.

The roughly 14-mile-long road has had its share of accidents and fatalities, which New said is the driving force behind giving it priority maintenance. Alachua County is responsible for the upkeep of 8.4 of those miles.

According to New and the resolution, the Florida Highway Patrol reported 48 crashes in the last five years along CR 337 including three fatalities.

“We all know it’s an unsafe road,” New said.

CR 337 showing pavement cracking

He referred to a 2011 county road improvement list that once had CR 337 as the fifth project. Two of those projects have been completed, New told the commission.

“Here we are a decade later, and nothing has changed,” he said.

Currently, CR 337 measures 18 feet wide and has no shoulder. New said that the road was not built up to today’s standard of 24 feet wide with a paved shoulder for bicycles.

The two 90-degree bends are not properly banked,” he said.

Marlowe said a lot of Alachua County residents believe there is a prioritized list of rural roads to repair, but the county abandoned it years ago. He said it makes sense to bring it back. 

“A list gives everyone a goal,” Marlowe said. “A sense that the roads will be addressed.”

Marlowe added that he is excited to present the idea to the BOCC. New said he was going to encourage other municipalities to make the same request.

“My intention is to email a copy of the resolution to all of the other city managers and encourage them to present a similar resolution to the BOCC,” New said.

According to Alice LaLonde, administrative coordinator of the Levy County Road Department, Levy is in the process of advertising for a contractor to tackle its five-mile section of the road with widening and a shoulder. 

“That would be nice if their portion is paved close to when we have ours done,” she said.

CR 337 showing edge of roadway crumbling
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Marilyn Johnson

It is now near the end of August 2022 and still nothing is done about this road. It is a nightmare.