Article by: Matt Bruce

For the full story visit: Daytona Beach News-Journal

FLAGLER BEACH — When the Florida Department of Transportation last year presented preliminary plans to permanently repair a Flagler Beach portion of State Road A1A plagued by storm washouts, all five proposals included either building an underground seawall or moving the state road one block west.

But state transportation officials unveiled a new strategy Thursday night. Instead of installing a seawall, plans now call for the construction of a median along the stretch of S.R. A1A damaged during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The center divider would be built with an underground drainage system designed to contain stormwater runoff.

“The road today slopes out toward the beach and to the residences,” said FDOT consultant Ty Garner, project manager for the road reconstruction. “The new road’s going to slope in and contain the water inside the median so we won’t have the same erosion problem we keep getting from the top down.”

Nearly 200 residents squeezed into the Flagler Beach Methodist Church for Thursday’s open house as FDOT officials unveiled design plans for the 1.4-mile stretch of S.R. A1A. The project, which FDOT officials estimated will cost just under $5 million, calls for S.R. A1A to be reconstructed between South 9th and South 22nd streets. That segment includes the portion of roadway that collapsed during Matthew in October 2016, requiring Gov. Rick Scott to expedite an emergency fix last November.

The project to permanently repair the road is slated to begin next summer, but FDOT spokesman Steve Olson said construction crews likely won’t begin work until the fall. .

What they’ll do

Crews will remove pavement installed for the temporary repairs and replace it with asphalt designed to last at least 20 years. The sloped buffer of coquina rock and granite currently armoring sand dunes adjacent to the road will remain.

Olson said northbound traffic will continue to run along S.R. A1A and southbound traffic will be diverted one street west onto Central Avenue as construction progresses one block at a time.

The agency’s proposed design includes 10-foot traffic lanes north and south divided by a 10-foot landscaping median in the center. There will be two-foot buffers on each side of the road, and a six-foot sidewalk on the west side of the street.

Renato Gonzalez, a senior project manager with RS&H Inc., the project’s Orlando design firm, said the depressed median will be crafted with concrete channels to collect stormwater from the road and force it to seep into an underground drainage system built with a piping network seven to 10 feet beneath the surface. Gonzalez said the system isn’t equipped to handle a direct impact from a major hurricane but indicated it’s designed to handle rainfall intensities from 25-year floods.

“This will help a lot because there has never really been a drainage system out there,” he said. “So this will help because a portion of the failures that we have seen since Matthew have really been surface water from the street that is creating erosion problems at the top.”

Maintaining beach access

Beach access was a major concern as many residents asked how long it would be before dune walkovers in the area can be reopened. One resident, Greg Johnston, noted that FDOT’s plans eliminate beach side parking throughout the project area, which was not the case before Matthew ripped through the road.

“I’ve been here 41 years and it seems like every year that goes by, the government takes away more of our rights, more of our access to the beautiful beach that we have there,” Johnston said. “This is one of the most beautiful stretches of beachfront — right next to a road — anywhere in the United States. And we’re slowly eroding away that freedom.”

Flagler Beach officials said there may be plans to reopen some dune walkovers before construction begins.

State transportation officials met with overwhelming opposition when they came to Flagler Beach last December and proposed building a 5.4-mile seawall as a long-term solution to protect S.R. A1A. Many claimed it would jeopardize long-sought funding for a $44-million beach renourishment effort managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Congress authorized $31.6 million for that project last December but the money was never appropriated for Flagler and the project has fallen flat over the past 11 months.

Future plans

Seeing no clear path, county officials have stopped pursuing federal dollars. Flagler County Commissioner Donald O’Brien said the county has instead turned its attention to a $20-million plan that would rely on state and local funds to refortify the county’s 18-mile coastline through offshore dredging.

Absent the Army Corps dollars, several residents advocated Thursday for an underground seawall as a measure to protect A1A against what Ted Barnhill described as “relentless erosion on the dunes.”

“Loose rock and sand will not protect the road,” said Barnhill, who owns multiple properties within the project corridor. “It’s never done so and it will fail again in the future.”

Flagler Beach City Commissioner Joy McGrew, however, said she isn’t convinced that seawalls would solve the conundrum of a road that has routinely experienced washouts during major storms over the years.

“My biggest concern coming into the meeting was to do something (we’ve) never done and a wall is not that answer in my opinion,” she said. “If somebody could prove to me that you could put a wall in, bury it and then affix some system of stabilization of the rock system that we put in front of that wall, I might buy into it.”

Residents can email Garner at through Nov. 13 to have their input included in the public hearing’s official public record.