FDOT plans for SR710 Extension

OKEECHOBEE — A plan to extend State Road 710 to intersect with U.S. 441 North just south of the Okeechobee Health Care Facility drew some concerns from members of the public at the Aug. 30 public meeting at the Okeechobee KOA.

The extension would move the intersection of State Road 70 and State Road 710 east to come out where the State Road 70 now intersects Northeast 34th Avenue. SR 710 would then run north and east to come out on U.S. Highway 441 N. just south of the Okeechobee Health Care Facility.

Walter Breuggerman of the Florida Department of Transportation said the extension project will address congestion at the intersection of State Road 70 and U.S. Highway 441.

State Road 710 is one of the few roadways connecting Florida’s east coast with the interior counties, he said. The project will take more of the truck traffic away from the intersection of SR 70 and U.S. 441.

Tim Gillis, who said he has lived in Okeechobee since 1972, explained that when he taught geometry at Okeechobee High School he taught the students to use their common sense and to use good reasoning.

“You’re wanting to put a major road in next to a hospital and high school,” he said. “I don’t think that’s good reasoning.”

Mr. Gillis suggested FDOT consider upgrading Berman Road and Dark Hammock Road to be used as a bypass which comes out on U.S. 441 N.

“The concern we have is about a connection to our industrial park,” said city administrator Marcos Montes De Oca.

John Hayford, executive director of Okeechobee Utility Authority, said the FDOT’s planned route will impact the OUA ground water well field.

He said since the start of discussion about the SR 70 extension, OUA has notified FDOT about the well field at the groundwater treatment plant and the need for a sufficient buffer between the well field and any road construction.

“The road alignment will impact our property,” he said. “The closeness to our facility would take it out of operation.”

OUA uses surface water from Lake Okeechobee as a primary water source. OUA’s backup plan includes pumping water from the Rim Canal and using the groundwater from the well field. OUA prefers to use surface water because the well water is “hard water” and customers do not like it, as it leaves spots on surfaces and causes equipment like hot water heaters to wear out more quickly. In addition, the ground well pumps can only provide 1 million gallons of water per day, which is less than half of the current demand. OUA switches to the backup system when hurricanes approach, to prevent the potential for the lake intake to be clogged with mud. The backup water supply can also be used if toxic algae is detected near the OUA intake on the lake.

Jeremy LaRue, of Total Roadside Service Towing and Recovery, said the SR 710 extension plan “will bypass people around my business.”

He said he built his business on a main access road both to take advantage of “drive-by” business and to provide sufficient access for large trucks.

Losing that “drive-by” business could cost people their jobs, he added, noting that he currently employs 29 people.

Mr. LaRue said part of his business is a wrecker service for large trucks such as the Rooms-2-Go trucks which often have two trailers.

The way FDOT has planned the SR 710 extension, the only way to get the big trucks from his business back to the main road would be to drive them through residential areas and past a school, he explained.

On the highway, a big truck may break down at 2 a.m., he continued. If a wrecker has to go get a truck at 2 a.m. and go through a residential area to haul it back to Total Roadside Service, the neighbors are not going to be happy, he said.

In addition, Mr. LaRue explained, much of his business is working on oversize, overlength and/or overweight vehicles. FDOT has strict guidelines in regard to which roads can be used for these vehicles. He asked if the FDOT access road the trucks would have to use to go from his business to the new section of SR 710 will be certified for overweight, oversize and overlength vehicles, and if there will be sufficient room to turn the big rigs.

Okeechobee County Commissioner Bryant Culpepper spoke in favor of the SR 710 extension plan. “We looked for the safest way, the quickest way and the most efficient way to move traffic,” he said.

Mr. Culpepper said he realizes there will be noise issues due to the proximity of the nursing home to the proposed stop light at the intersection of the SR 710 exertion and U.S. 441. He said FDOT could use some kind of buffer wall to reduce the noise level of the trucks braking for the traffic light.

“There’s always going to be people unhappy, but I think this needs to be done,” he said.

Some members of the public at the meeting chose to submit written comments instead of taking the microphone.

FDOT will accept public comment on the plan through Sept. 10. Written comments may be mailed to Walter Breuggenman, Florida Department of Transportation, P.O. Box 1249, Bartow, FL 33831 or emailed to walter.breuggenman@dot.state.fl.us.

 

 

 

This is a very basic FDOT Okeechobee County SR710 Extension map.

 

Below is a link to a very detailed PDF map which can be opened and enlarged to see the detail.

PDEStudyReevaluationfortheextensionofSR710inOkeechobeeCounty – projectoverview 08-30-18

 

FDOT plans SR710 Extension

OKEECHOBEE — The SR 710 Extension project in Okeechobee County consists of a new extension that will serve as a bypass route to address traffic congestion at the intersection of SR 70 and U.S. 441. The new extension will also help to reduce truck traffic through the City of Okeechobee. The project begins with a new intersection on U.S. 441 located approximately one mile north of the SR 70 and U.S. 441 intersection. The new extension traverses southeasterly to connect with existing SR 710 at the L-63N Interceptor Canal. The total project length is approximately 3.8 miles.

The SR 710 extension will have two lanes in each direction with curb along both the median and outside lanes. The posted speed will be 45 mph. The posted speed will reduce to 40 mph near the new intersection at U.S. 441. The SR 710 extension will include bicycle lanes, sidewalk along the south side of the roadway, and a shared use path along the north side of the roadway. The SR 710 extension will have new signals at the intersections with U.S. 441, SR 70, and SE 40th Avenue.

Right-of-way acquisition for the project is funded in Fiscal Years 2019, 2020, and 2021. The project is not currently funded for construction.

• Estimated completion date: June 2022 (pending construction funding);
• Total cost: $64,748,076 (estimated);
• Lengths and limits: 3.8 miles from U.S. 441 to the L-63N Interceptor Canal.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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