The proposal of a new highway interchange in northwest Ocala is in the second phase of its development.
The Florida Department of Transportation has proposed it be located between U.S. 27 and State Road 326 near NW 49th Street, and a public meeting was held Wednesday at the Ocala Police Department — the second of three FDOT presentations. The first was a project kickoff back in July 2017 and the next will be a public hearing anticipated toward the end of 2019.
Wednesday’s meeting was an “alternatives workshop” where the public could observe the design options for the interchange. They were also able to use an interactive touch-screen presentation to view the map at different angles with each alternative.
FDOT spokeswoman Jessica Ottaviano said the interchange was proposed due to heavy truck traffic on the two current interchanges.
“We’re proposing this because traffic is very heavily congested on the adjacent interchanges,” Ottaviano said. “This project would help relieve congestion at these two interchanges as well as improve operations.”
In 2017, the project had 10 alternative designs, but has since been narrowed to four options.
Steve Rothenburg, 59, of southeast Ocala, said he thinks the new interchange is a great idea and will help as the state continues to grow.
“I-75 needs all the help it can get,” he said “It’s overcrowded. It seems like it has way more traffic than it was designed to have. Half the time it seems like a parking lot. I think it’ll benefit anybody in the area and anybody coming up and down I-75.”
Rothenburg also considered the large commercial companies using I-75 such as Chewy, AutoZone and FedEx.
FDOT is currently in the study phase of the project — determining the location and alternative designs for roadway projects and their social, environmental and economic effects, according to FDOT’S website. There is no estimated finish date or cost available — Ottoviano said both are unlikely until the design phase is finished and FDOT has initial funding for construction.
April Adams, 41, worries for her daughter’s commute from their home to where she works, where traffic is heavy.
“My daughter works on that side of town where it’s going to be. When she drives to and from our house, there’s always additional traffic that she gets backed up in,” she said. “Traffic is a concern, so I definitely have to give myself more time to get to and from my appointments or meetings.”
Other purposes of this project are to promote job creation and improve the area’s economic prospects, according to FDOT, which says the road will support continued development of the Ocala 489 Commerce Park.
In FDOT’s presentation, it is predicted that 26,500 people will use this new interchange each day. It is also noted that this project will support a vision for a new east-west corridor parallel and is needed in order to improve regional mobility within Marion County.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to accurately report that 26,500 people will use the interchange each day. A previous version said 26,500 by 2045.