Roadwork promises smooth ride ahead

Officials say the final stages of a major road restoration project for Buena Vista and Morse boulevards in The Villages will begin next week and are expected to finish sometime in June.

Bouncy car rides through The Villages will soon be a thing of the past. The final phases of a major restoration project on the two major north-south thoroughfares in The Villages begin next week, and are expected to wrap up in June. Sumter County officials say the end result will be a smoother, more resilient roadway. Construction on Buena Vista Boulevard starts next week, while work on Morse Boulevard will begin the week of March 2. Construction will require lane closures during the day on certain sections of the roads. The Sumter County gas tax and a $1 million grant from the state are paying for the restoration project, Public Works Director Deborah Snyder said.

Two sections of Buena Vista Boulevard, one between County Road 466 and Lake Miona Drive, and one between CR 44A and State Road 44, and a section of Morse Boulevard between CR 466 and Stillwater Trail were completed in 2019.

The total cost of the project, including work already done, is $10.3 million.

Earlier phases of the project were completed at night, so lanes did not need to be closed during peak hours. But Snyder said this approach can be disruptive in residential areas.

“This type of work is noisy, and when done at night, the noise is amplified because there is no other noise to cancel it out,” she said.

Lighted signs are being placed along the routes two weeks before construction begins on any stretch of road to inform drivers when work will start and to expect delays, Snyder said.

It will require residents to plan ahead, plan alternate routes and leave earlier, but the end result will be worth it, Sumter County Commissioner Don Burgess said.

“It’s going to require patience, but it will be a benefit to the community when it’s completed,” he said. “Once it’s done, it’s done, and it will last for years to come.”

This intensive restoration project is necessary because the roads have reached a point when just patching potholes won’t cut it anymore, said Sumter County Commission Chairman Steve Printz. The existing roadway has deteriorated to the point at which it requires resurfacing, or in some areas, repaving all the way down to the road bed.

“Both roads need more than just superficial repairs,” Printz said. “They need to be taken down to the base. We did an engineering study last year to determine what needed to be done. This will be a major improvement with much less maintenance.”

The improvements will make it easier to get goods and services to Villages residents, said Burgess, of the Village of Bonnybrook.

“I’ve had people say, ‘Why do we allow 18-wheelers and big trucks on these roads?’” Burgess said. “Think about the people moving to The Villages. People need furniture delivered. Food has to get to restaurants. These roads need to be built to respond to heavier vehicles.”

This restoration project also will help drive the local economy, said Printz, of the Village of Fernandina.

“You don’t have to drive far to see evidence of the economic health of the county,” Printz said. “You can clearly see new businesses and new opportunities for improved quality of life. That would not happen without regional roads, good infrastructure and a strong public/private partnership.”

Single-lane closures can be expected between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. About 7 miles of Buena Vista Boulevard  from just south of Lake Miona Drive and CR 44A will be ground down and resurfaced.

Work on Morse Boulevard will begin the first week of March, with 6 1/2 half miles of road between just south of Stillwater Trail and SR 44 expected to be complete by June 14.

Staff writer Phill Stuart can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5332, or phillip.stuart@thevillagesmedia.com.