SR 200/A1A Study: Background
Nassau County is located in Northeast Florida and has experienced rapid growth over the last fifteen-plus years. The County’s population has increased from 57,663 in 2000 to 88,625 in 2019. The number of housing units has increased by approximately 10,000 in the same time period. Growth rates are projected to continue. Updated population, demographic, and growth information will be supplied by the Planning and Economic Opportunity (PEO) Department as part of the project.
In 2007, Nassau County partnered with the Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach/Yulee Chamber of Commerce to conduct a 25-year visioning process with the citizens of Nassau County. Numerous public outreach sessions were involved in the process. The final report, Vision 2032, resulted in five topics ranked most important to residents: 1) Growth Management, 2) Recreation and Open Space, 3) Infrastructure, 4) Environment, and 5) Education and School Facilities. The commonality among different areas of the County and across groups was that citizens expressed how much they enjoy the quality of life in Nassau County. There is a strong interest in maintaining this quality of life through managing growth, creating skilled job opportunities, improving transportation networks, increasing recreation and open space, and improving and expanding essential services to keep pace with population growth.
The majority of the recent growth, both residential and commercial, has occurred within the boundaries proposed for this Corridor Study. The growth pattern has been low density, auto-oriented, and suburban in nature. Commercial development fronts SR 200/A1A and is a one-story strip development pattern, while residential developments behind the commercial areas are largely one to two story single family home subdivisions. Two multi-family apartment complexes have been built adjacent to the corridor within walking distance of commercial development. The majority of the Corridor is not bicycle or pedestrian friendly, although FDOT improvements associated with widening the roadway from a four-lane rural section to a six-lane urban section, currently underway along the Corridor, will help increase bicycle and pedestrian mobility.
SR 200/A1A is functionally classified as a principal arterial with four (soon six) lanes and traffic signals. The facility is designated as a Strategic Intermodal System (SIS) Connector, between I-95 and the Emerging Port of Fernandina, and serves as a prime timber transportation corridor. Additionally, the Corridor serves as the primary gateway not only to Nassau County, but to the state of Florida. The I-95 interchange at the Corridor (Exit 373) serves for now as the first interchange in Florida with services (gas, food, hotels) for visitors traveling south on 95, or the last in Florida for visitors traveling north. The Corridor is the entryway for visitors who exit I-95 to access Amelia Island, the County’s major tourist destination. SR 200/A1A also serves as a primary emergency evacuation route for the County.
In 2003, the County adopted changes to their Land Development Code to include a SR 200/A1A Access Management Overlay District (Section 35). This Overlay primarily addresses signage and landscape requirements as well as vehicular access points. Underlying land use and zoning designations still apply.
In 2013, Atkins completed a Corridor Study for the North Florida TPO and Nassau County that looked at operational and access management improvements and priorities needed to support all modes of transportation including roadway capacity, public transit, and bicycle/pedestrian improvements. Because the study largely addressed components of operation on a FDOT road, the County did not have jurisdiction over most suggestions in that study. This study divided SR 200/A1A into four segments for review, as roadway and surrounding site conditions vary along the length of the Corridor.
However, also included in the 2013 study were preliminary suggestions around identity and placemaking for the Corridor along these segments. Historically, Nassau County’s identity has been associated with railroads, timber, trade, and tourism. Opportunities exist to highlight the County’s history to interject a sense of place along the corridor and to better emphasize the County as not only a gateway to Florida, but as a destination in its own right with a unique identity. The County seeks to elaborate upon the identity and placemaking suggested in the 2013 study, as an area where the County can work with FDOT on future improvements, align zoning and land use along the corridor to help facilitate quality of life and sense of place, identify specific design, wayfinding, identity and placemaking improvements, and suggest stormwater design standards.
The County has recognized that the pattern of development along the SR 200/A1A Corridor is not fiscally sustainable, does not reflect trends in planning and design, and does not represent the interests of the community as expressed in the Vision 2032 plan. The goals of this study are to transform the SR 200/A1A into a place that functions not just as a major roadway, but a place that provides different opportunities for living and working, and creates a sense of place in Nassau County based on our community’s history, character, and quality of life. The County is seeking a long-term design plan for the Corridor so that it is still functional and of value to the community over the long-term. Ideally, the Corridor Study will emphasize community identity, enhance the public realm and streetscape, encourage recreation and bicycle and pedestrian activity, promote compact mixed-use development patterns, and improve environmental quality and floodplain management, while also attracting private investment and making use of already developed sites.