Not all roads lead to The Villages, but area leaders are making sure the ones that do accommodate current residents and continued growth.
To ensure paved infrastructure can accommodate additional traffic, Lake and Sumter county leaders are using local and state funds to continue improving area roads to meet future needs.
Sumter County will spend more than $8.3 million to improve County Road 468.
Lake County is improving County Road 466 from the Lake-Sumter County line to U.S. Highway 27/441. This project, completed in four phases, will cost almost $30 million.
Building a better road is a messy, long-term process that might slow down traffic and cause a headache or two.
The construction to improve CR 468 may fall into that category before the job is finished, but it will be worth it, said Sumter Public Works Director Rich Baier.
The development of The Village of Fenney and The Village of Southern Oaks will increase traffic between State Road 44 and U.S. Highway 301 exponentially during the next several years.
“The end results will be amazing,” Baier said. “It will be a seamless connection from Morse Boulevard at State Road 44 from CR 468 to U.S. Highway 301.”
When the CR 468 project is complete, the road will have four through lanes, a landscaped median, a sidewalk on the south side of the road and bicycle lanes on both sides, Baier said.
The road from CR 505 to U.S. 301 will have curbs and gutters.
The 1.7-mile project will cost approximately $8.3 million. An additional $5 million will be spent to design and relocate high-power electrical transmission lines on the section of CR 468 that runs from Florida’s Turnpike bridge to U.S. 301.
The county estimates the project will take three years from start to finish. But the contractor, Rainey Construction, expects all construction, with the exception of the intersection at U.S. 301, will be completed next summer, Baier said.
Sumter County created a system that allows them to identify needed road improvements in coordination with growth throughout the county.
In the past five years, the county has made numerous improvements, including widening CR 466 West, CR 462 and CR 466.
The county redesigned the intersection at SR 44 and Morse Boulevard.
It improved and widened CR 468 from the intersection of SR 44 to Florida’s Turnpike bridge.
The county also built a new bridge over the turnpike on CR 468 and made improvements from the bridge to CR 505. Currently the county is working on improvements on CR 505 to U.S. Highway 301.
Planning for Growth
Sumter County Commissioner Garry Breeden said The Villages has been a good partner in its infrastructure planning.
“The Villages developers share data as their projects progress so the commission can look at what the county needs transportation-wise to handle the extra growth,” Breeden said.
The county has long had a comprehensive plan to improve roads to stay ahead of the growth curve.
Breeden installed this proactive approach when working for Sumter County Public Works. That attitude continued with his role on the commission.
“The transportation plan has been improved considerably since I came to Sumter County in 1971, but the goal is to create a road system that serves the needs of the county,” Breeden said.
It became apparent that the county needed to expand these roadways to accommodate local and regional developments during the commission’s ongoing long-range planning efforts.
As plans for the villages of Fenney and Southern Oaks took shape, The Villages developer stepped up to partner with the county. They quickly realized they needed additional infrastructure.
To expedite the process, the developer is paying up-front for the construction and the county is reimbursing the construction costs as cash becomes available in the impact fee fund or through impact fee credits, Baier said.
The county receives about $2,000 per home in road impact fees.
“It takes a long time to build up the fund at $2,000 per house,” Baier said. “Because of our partnership with the developer, we are able to improve the road several years earlier.”
Sumter County is always looking for partnerships that support the goals of the county commission.
In 2016, the county and The Villages of Lake-Sumter Inc., agreed to partner to improve CR 466. The county builds the road and the developer provides the money. The county pays for the construction as growth money comes into the county. If the building is faster than the flow of impact fees, the county will provide the developer future growth impact fee credits.
Updates to CR 468 aren’t the only roadwork on the horizon.
As growth and resulting traffic increases, Florida Department of Transportation and Sumter County are making improvements.
Sumter County plans to mill and resurface south Buena Vista Boulevard from the north Odell Circle/Bailey Trail roundabout to the south Odell Circle roundabout. This project is awaiting funding.
Intersection improvements at CR 466 are in the planning stage for traffic operation and intersection safety. The project will include improvements at CR 466 and Preston Boulevard, Buena Vista Boulevard, CR 101, and CR 103.
“These are all in the impact stage, and construction is planned in 2018-19, with completion in 2019,” Baier said. “These are projects that will be considered in the upcoming budget process.”
Construction is expected to begin in 2018 for a planned project to resurface U.S. 441 from Avenida Central/Griffin Avenue north to the Sumter County line, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. The finished project will cost about $3 million. D.A.B. Constructors Inc. is the contractor for the job.
Fruitland Park and 466A improvements
The city of Fruitland Park is right alongside The Villages when it comes to expansion and construction.
Work to expand County Road 466A to four lanes from U.S. Highway 27/441 to just west of Poinsettia Avenue is well underway as construction enters the third phase of the process.
The first phase of construction started in 2014. It widened CR 466A to four lanes from the Sumter and Lake County line to Windy Acres Arena. The second phase completed the widening from U.S. 27/441 to Fruitland Park Elementary School.
The third phase, from the school to Windy Acres Arena, was supposed to be the final phase, but a lack of funding resulted in the phase being split.
The project costs a total of $30 million, said Jim Stivender, Lake County’s public works director.
The county currently is $7 million short to complete the project.
“We got $2.75 million from the state last year, but nothing from the state this year,” Stivender said. “Our legislature request went unfunded this year.”
The third phase will go from where it stops at the school to just past Poinsettia Avenue, said Charlie Rector, Fruitland Park’s community development director. It’s tentatively set to start in February 2018, if the county secures funding.
The fourth and final phase of the project will take place from Poinsettia Avenue to Windy Acres Arena, but Rector said there is no time frame because of the lack of funding.
Plans are complete for the next stage of the project, and Stivender said they should have everything they need by the end of the year.
“I think the big thing is that this next phase will get to Rose Avenue, where the traffic light is now,” he said. “We’ll have four lanes through that intersection, which will help.”
In August, if the legislature approves the county’s request for more money to complete the project, it will appear in the 2018-19 budget year.
“We would probably not get the agreement until March 2019,” he said. “The earliest we can start construction on the final phase, if funding is in place, is sometime in late 2019. If everything goes right, the earliest it will be completed is by 2021.”
Patricia Steele and Rachel Stuart are staff writers with The Villages Daily Sun. They may be reached at 352-753-1119.