Perry suggests U.S. 441 causeway over Paynes Prairie

January 11, 2019

Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, discussed the proposal Friday morning during the University of Florida’s eye-opener breakfast.

Florida state Sen. Keith Perry said he’s working with federal officials to try to get funding for a proposed elevation of a three-mile stretch of U.S. 441 over Paynes Prairie.

Perry, R-Gainesville, discussed the idea Friday morning during the University of Florida’s eye-opener breakfast with state and local representatives at UF’s Hilton Conference Center.

The elevated road would encompass a three-mile stretch that’s been susceptible to closure during hurricanes and major storms due to flooding.

“If we have another major storm it would be closed quickly,” Perry said. “We don’t need more traffic on I-75. So we’ll be rolling that out. We’ve already done the preliminary work. We’ve met with the secretary of state of Florida, we’ve had congressman (Ted) Yoho’s office work on that. Whether it comes to fruition or not, that’s going to be a priority we have in the future.”

Perry said the project would benefit natural water flow and wildlife in Paynes Prairie. He said he doesn’t yet have a solid estimate for how much the project would cost, but referred to it as a 50- to 100-year solution to a problem.

“We’re just in the preliminary stages,” Perry said. “But I think it has a lot of merit, both environmentally and certainly from a transportation issue.”

Yoho spokeswoman Cat Cammack confirmed that their office is working with Perry to deal with flooding on the stretch of 441. Last summer, the Florida Department of Transportation explored the possibility of putting guardrails along the stretch, after a number of accidents resulted in cars plunging into the marshy waters after skidding off the roadway.

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“The 441, the bridge, the causeway is something that Senator Perry’s office, Congressman Yoho’s office looked at in exploring ways that they can improve the infrastructure there,” Cammack said.

Infrastructure projects and Interstate 75 safety were among topics discussed by representatives and members of the community at the breakfast.

Last week, seven people, including five children from Louisiana, were killed in a three-vehicle accident at mile marker 393 on I-75 that involved two semi-trucks and a passenger van, which was struck when one of the semi-trucks and another vehicle jumped the guardrail from the northbound into the southbound lanes.

Asked what more could be done to ensure safety on I-75, Perry mentioned high speed rail projects from Miami to Orlando and Orlando to Tampa that could help alleviate traffic on Florida highways.

“We’ve got 30 million people in Florida so you’ve got to look outside of widening the existing structure,” Perry said.

Florida state Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-Newberry called for more traffic enforcement on the stretch of I-75 between Lake City and Wildwood.

“I don’t know about you guys but I travel the Interstate quite frequently and I may be going a couple of miles over the speed limit and people are passing me like I am sitting still,” Clemons said. “I’m serious, 90 miles per hour, 95 miles per hour, people are driving on the Interstate. We need to enforce the driving limits that are there.”

Perry said his top capital project this legislative session is to try to secure funding for UF’s new music school, which is planned for the corner of University and 13th Street at a price of $55 million.

“If you look at the University of Florida, if you look at moving into the top five (universities in the country), this is a key factor in that,” he said. “This going to be a game changer, not just for the University of Florida, but for Gainesville. It’s going to be a world-class facility.”