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Growth taxes the roads: More homes mean more drivers, but can roads handle them?

Rush-hour slowdown — The intersection of Woodland Boulevard, Orange Camp Road and McGregor Road in south DeLand gets congested during rush hour, as seen in the photo above. As new homes are built in the hundreds in southeastern DeLand, more and more drivers pour onto the city’s increasingly taxed highways and byways. 

Rush-hour slowdown — The intersection of Woodland Boulevard, Orange Camp Road and McGregor Road in south DeLand gets congested during rush hour, as seen in the photo above. As new homes are built in the hundreds in southeastern DeLand, more and more drivers pour onto the city’s increasingly taxed highways and byways. 

BEACON PHOTO/ERIKA WEBB

Taxed roads, taxed drivers — In fiscal year 2016-17, consumer-paid gasoline taxes accounted for 73 percent of revenue — $22.9 million — collected by Volusia County for road operations, maintenance and capacity projects. This chart shows how fuel prices and consumer trips impact the county’s road-project coffers. The vertical axis shows tax collections in millions of dollars; the horizontal axis shows fiscal years. 

Taxed roads, taxed drivers — In fiscal year 2016-17, consumer-paid gasoline taxes accounted for 73 percent of revenue — $22.9 million — collected by Volusia County for road operations, maintenance and capacity projects. This chart shows how fuel prices and consumer trips impact the county’s road-project coffers. The vertical axis shows tax collections in millions of dollars; the horizontal axis shows fiscal years. 

CHART COURTESY VOLUSIA COUNTY PUBLIC WORKS

New homes equal more cars on the roads, especially in southeast DeLand, where development is at an all-time high.

Who pays for improvements — widening, adding and extending roadways — to accommodate the additional traffic?

Not those who pay property taxes, according to Clay Ervin, Volusia County’s director of Growth and Resource Management.

Instead, road-impact fees, paid by developers, as well as revenue from the local-option fuel tax, are used for road-building, extending and improvements, Ervin explained.

“No ad valorem tax revenue is used for roads,” he said.

Bond money, paid back with revenue from impact fees, also contributes.

But those borrowed funds are running out, according to county officials. And impact fees and gasoline taxes are subject to ups and downs. Also, increasingly fuel-efficient vehicles lessen gasoline-tax revenue.

How much of the needed roadwork will be paid for by impact fees collected on all of the homes being built?

Countywide, over the course of six years, developers’ impact fees will contribute the least amount of money to the roads their projects will affect.

From 2015 to 2021, the gasoline tax, paid by consumers at the pump, will contribute $66 million, followed by grant funding, $57 million ($44 million of which will pay for a new bridge in Daytona Beach), and $11.5 million in bond money, according to the Volusia County 2016 Road Program Capital Investments chart.

Developer impact fees will account for $8.6 million.     

In DeLand’s growing southeast quadrant, South Kepler Road/Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Beltway, Taylor and Orange Camp roads, Blue Lake and Beresford avenues, and State Road 472 funnel motorists to and from Interstate 4 and U.S. Highway 17-92.

Victoria Park, at build-out, will add about 4,000 homes to the area. Other subdivisions in the area will add hundreds more.

Victoria Park alone will add about 8,000 cars to those six roads.

The road impact fee is $2,173 per single-family residence. It costs at least $5 million per mile to build new lanes on roads such as Orange Camp Road and/or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Beltway, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

A five-year road program adopted in October, along with the county’s capital project schedule, outlines improvements on two of the six main roads in the growth zone.

Orange Camp Road is slated to be widened to four lanes from Martin Luther King east to the I-4/DeLand/Lake Helen interchange. This $9.8 million project has been through the design and permitting phases, and the project is headed to land acquisition, according to the county. The bid-and-construction period is expected to go into early 2019. No completion date is identified.

Plans to extend Beresford Avenue from Blue Lake Avenue eastward to South Kepler Road — where Kepler becomes Martin Luther King — are stalled in the land-acquisition phase.

According to county documents, the project is on hold indefinitely because land the county had expected to be donated for right of way has been sold.

Volusia County Director of Engineering and Construction Gerald Brinton said the land’s new owners aren’t sure whether they will donate the right of way.

And the proposed project is not quite that simple, he added.

“The Beresford Avenue extension is essentially on hold pending FDOT’s action on the S.R. 44 and Kepler Road intersection,” Brinton said.

For any real congestion relief to occur at that intersection, Beresford Avenue would have to extend even farther east — from Kepler to State Road 44 — than is currently proposed, he explained.

“That eastern segment is not funded at all,” Brinton added.

Nor is the roundabout being considered by FDOT for the troublesome intersection.

“Both the City of DeLand and the county support making meaningful improvements to the S.R. 44 and Kepler Road intersection,” Brinton said.

 

Other needs have been identified, sometimes by people who live in the area:

 

1. A back way out of Victoria Hills.

While there has been discussion about extending South Blue Lake Avenue to S.R. 472, DeLand Planning Director Mike Holmes said land needed for the extension is privately owned, and neither the city nor county plans to take it.

That private property sits south of Victoria Hills and east of T.G. Lee Dairy and Spectrum Cable, according to Holmes.

Without it, South Blue Lake cannot be extended to S.R. 472.

 

2. A stoplight at Blue Lake and Orange Camp.

A consultant for the county will determine whether this is warranted, Holmes said.

 

3. More lanes on MLK.

Someday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Beltway could be widened from two to four lanes, according to the Volusia Transportation Planning Organization’s long-range wish list, but it won’t happen soon, according to Brinton.

  1. the intersection will be expanded, in conjunction with the planned Orange Camp Road widening project, he said.

There’s no doubt increasing traffic is causing congestion in the area. Residents say they sometimes must wait for two or three traffic-light sequences, for example, at the intersection of MLK and S.R. 472.

Between I-4 and U.S. 17-92, however, S.R. 472 traffic is more than simply inconvenient; it’s often dangerous.

There have been a number of crashes, at least two fatal, as drivers attempt to access S.R. 472 from a private road off Minnesota Avenue that is often used as an illegal back way into Victoria Hills, according to Jon Cheney, Volusia County director of Traffic Engineering.

— Erika Webb, erika@beacononlinenews.com


More cars, more crashes

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, between Jan. 1, 2015, and Dec. 11, 2017, in the rapidly developing southeast DeLand area there were 163 crashes at intersections involving 330 vehicles. In those wrecks, 142 people were injured, including 18 whose injuries were incapacitating. Two people died.

The crashes were at or near three intersections: Orange City’s Minnesota Avenue and State Road 472, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Beltway and S.R. 472, and S.R. 472 and Interstate 4.

In the same time frame, according to the DMV, along U.S. Highway 17-92 (Woodland Boulevard) from just north of East Beresford Avenue to State Road 472 there were a total of 352 crashes involving 644 vehicles; 244 people were injured, including 19 who were incapacitated and four who died.

On Taylor Road, from the intersection of Blue Lake Avenue to MLK, the DMV had 14 crashes involving 28 vehicles between Jan. 1, 2015, and Dec. 11, 2017. In those, 16 people were injured; none were killed.


How much traffic?

Below are the annual average daily trips on DeLand-area roadway segments, followed by the number of trips the road segment is able to carry (in parentheses), and the “level of service” grade (from A to F) in parentheses:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Beltway from Taylor Road to Orange Camp Road: 13,800 (17,050) (C)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Beltway from Cassadaga Road to S.R. 472: 12,920 (17,050) (C)

Taylor Road from Blue Lake to MLK: 5,600 (13,640) (C)

Blue Lake Avenue from Taylor Road to Orange Camp Road: 4,660 (17,050) (C)

Orange Camp Road from Blue Lake to MLK: 12,110 (17,050) (C)

Orange Camp Road from U.S. Highway 17-92 to Princeton Road: 11,800 (14,040) (D)

U.S. Highway 17-92 from New York Avenue to Euclid Avenue: 17,200 (15,600) (F)

U.S. Highway 17-92 from Euclid Avenue to Beresford Avenue: 16,300 (16,380) (E)

Kepler Road from DeLand’s Minnesota Avenue to S.R. 44: 17,240 (17,050) (F)

— From Volusia County traffic data for 2016

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