Orange Park, FL

Blanding Boulevard Bummer: Will planned intersection upgrades help traffic snarls?

Don Johnson

Chris Harkless, general manager of Orange Park Auto Mall, calls the traffic issues on Blanding Boulevard “atrocious” and “ugly.” He should know.

Orange Park Auto Mall has been located at the Longchamp Drive and Blanding Boulevard intersection for 23 years with Harkless as its general manager. He says he has seen the traffic on Blanding increase 10-fold during that time.

FDOT says the annual average daily traffic count for Blanding Boulevard at Wells Road is 76,000 vehicles. Blanding also is known as State Road 21.

Times-Union readers in a 2009 survey overwhelmingly selected Blanding Boulevard at I-295 as the worst intersection in Northeast Florida.

Blanding motorists must drive through eight traffic lights between Wells Road and Collins Road. There are 10 access points to businesses along that stretch that don’t have traffic lights.

Harkless said a plan by FDOT to help with the logjam of traffic by moving some of it through Collins Road hasn’t really helped much.

In 2010, FDOT announced it would spend about $98 million to connect Collins Road to I-295 and help keep motorists off Blanding. The project was built to ease congestion at Blanding and I-295.

The project also constructed four new lanes on I-295, two in each direction, that are limited to motorists exiting at Blanding or Collins.

Now FDOT says intersection upgrades to increase traffic capacity are planned at the Blanding intersections of Wells and Argyle Forest Boulevard at a cost of $16.3 million. The project is currently scheduled to begin in 2025, a FDOT spokeswoman said.

The Orange Park Auto Mall is located at the Longchamp and Blanding intersection, which Harkless called the “worst intersection” on Blanding. He said the intersection should have a traffic light.

Harkless said numerous accidents occur there every year.

For car dealers, Harkless said test drives on Blanding can be an issue for their customers depending on the time of day. Another car dealer on Blanding Boulevard also confirmed the issues with customer test drives but declined to be identified.

He said Blanding traffic at rush hour can be a virtual standstill, with a one-mile backup past his dealership on most days.

During rush hour, he said it can take about 15 minutes to travel the approximately 2.2 miles from his dealership to the Orange Park Mall at Wells Road.

He said the second worst intersection on Blanding is located at Argyle Forest Boulevard. To get to Interstate 295, he takes a different route rather than try Blanding.

Here are the annual average daily traffic counts in the area provided by FDOT:

SR-21 (Blanding Boulevard) between Wells Road and Argyle Forest Road

Year 2020 Annual Average daily Traffic = 76,000

Year 2021 Annual Average daily Traffic = 86,500

Wells Road, West of Debarry Avenue/East of SR-21

Year 2020 Annual Average daily Traffic = 20,800

Year 2021 Annual Average daily Traffic = 25,000

SR-21, South of Wells Road/North of Spencer Road

Year 2020 Annual Average daily Traffic = 58,000

Year 2021 Annual Average daily Traffic = 63,000

Ramp from I-295 Northbound to SR-21

Year 2020 Annual Average daily Traffic = 16,000

Year 2021 Annual Average daily Traffic = 17,000

Ramp from SR-21 to I-295 Northbound

Year 2020 Annual Average daily Traffic = 15,000

Year 2021 Annual Average daily Traffic = 17,000

Ramp from I-295 Southbound to SR-21

Year 2020 Annual Average daily Traffic = 14,500

Year 2021 Annual Average daily Traffic = 15,500

Ramp from SR-21 to I-295 Southbound

Year 2020 Annual Average daily Traffic = 17,500

Year 2021 Annual Average daily Traffic = 18,500

FDOT noted that 2021 and 2020 annual average daily traffic was slightly lower in volume due to pandemic-related lockdown.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3sTjYA_0fdJ8zgA00
Blanding Boulevard traffic can reach a standstill during rush hour.Photo via Google

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Veteran journalist with experience in website and newspaper content as an editor and writer. I have worked as a reporter at newspapers and websites in Florida, California and Arkansas. I am a former executive editor at the Tampa Bay Business Journal and worked for 12 years at The Tampa Tribune as an enterprise editor and business editor. At Patch.com, I produced stories for 24 websites in the Tampa Bay area and also edited content for websites in six states.

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