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Friday, May 24, 2024

Since 1998, David Cox has been writing letters asking Alachua County to pave Northwest 227th Drive, the dirt road in High Springs he has lived on for 13 years.

A decade later, Cox has the answer he's been waiting for.

County commissioners adopted a seven-year plan March 11 to surface about 65 of the county's 239 miles of unpaved roads, including the one Cox lives on.

Some of the residents along these roads have complained of respiratory problems due to dust in the air, said Chris Zeigler, the county's senior engineering technician.

Many have been promised pavement since the 1990s, Zeigler said, when the county last made improvements to its dirt roads.

"A lot of citizens complained they were given written promises," he said.

Now the roads will be given a "chip seal treatment," Zeigler said, a surface that is cheaper and about three-fourths of an inch thinner than pavement.

He said the treatment will eliminate the rough terrain and dust problems of a dirt road.

Roads set to be resurfaced include portions of Southwest 63rd Boulevard, Southwest 15th Avenue and Southwest 85th Avenue.

Surfacing the 65 miles, which will cost $3.8 million, will eventually save the county money by decreasing maintenance costs, Zeigler said.

Dirt roads have to be smoothed down by a truck every two to four weeks, he said.

Funds for the project will come from 15 percent of the five-cent gas tax the county passed in June, he said.

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The project will start immediately, he said, and five roads, totaling eight miles, should be finished by the end of 2008.

Some of the roads being surfaced serve up to a few thousands drivers a day, Zeigler said, but most are used only by the people who live on them. "Most of these are local roadways," he said. "Most of the traffic is local traffic."

But to local drivers, the paving is important.

All it takes is a rainstorm to wash out Northwest 227th Drive, Cox said. In dry weather, the road turns to dust.

"We live over a hundred feet from the roadway, and on some afternoons, we have a dust storm passing over our home," he said.

The road is now scheduled to be surfaced in 2010, but Cox said he's not getting his hopes up yet.

After waiting so long, Cox said he has heard a lot of excuses.

"If you consider the cost of maintenance, they could have paid to pave the road three or four times," he said.

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