By Estella R. Fullmer
For Hometown News
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- The City Commission is looking for ways to create a more efficient hurricane evacuation route.
City staff presented background information to the commission April 23 about extending Williamson Boulevard rather than creating an Interstate 95 interchange at Pioneer Trail.
The city and Volusia County first started looking at the possibility of extending Williamson from the Edgewater city limits through New Smyrna Beach and the I-95 interchange in 2001. The project has met with several snags that have so far prevented its development.
For Williamson, one of the problems is with the alignment of the proposed road section. Much of the land belongs to the Utilities Commission. In an agreement with the UC and NSB, it was determined the road would be best along the west side of the UC's property, however, Volusia County records still have the road going on the east side and the Utilities Commission will not approve that route. Another issue is funding for the project with the county stating it will be up to the businesses along the proposed route to pay for the extension. The UC has stated, "we do not intend to construct this road because we have no need for it."
"The road, which could potentially serve as an alternative to constructing an interchange at Interstate 95 and Pioneer Trail, is currently in the process of being extended south from Port Orange to Pioneer Trail," Planning Manager Gail Henrikson said.
With the Restoration development of regional impact in Edgewater, creating the road from State Road 442 north to the Edgewater city limits is needed. Restoration is a large commercial and residential project.
But, Ms. Henrikson said, "There are currently no plans to construct the 'missing link' of Williamson Boulevard from Pioneer Trail south to the New Smyrna Beach/Edgewater boundary."
Ocean Gate Commerce Center recently was approved to construct part of Williamson on the south side of State Road 44, but that plan does not have the road aligning with the UC's western alignment nor will it align with the Restoration segment in Edgewater.
In the City Commission meeting April 9, a motion was made to construct an interchange from Pioneer Trail onto I-95 for the main purpose of a hurricane evacuation route. The motion failed to pass with a vote of 2-2 prompting the commission to look more closely at the Williamson extension as an option. Council members requested more information be presented at the April 23 meeting. No decisions were reached at that meeting.
In other business, the city approved purchase of seven new vehicles for the New Smyrna Police Department at a cost of $229,033, which is lower than the Florida Sheriff's Contract. The Chevrolet Caprice patrol cars will be equipped with new Mobile Vehicle Camera Systems, costing $33,936 and Stalker Dual Radar Systems by Applied Concepts at a cost of $14,088.
The commission also approved the appointment of George Markert as Police Chief effective May 28.