Lem Turner: No upgrades
Lem Turner Road’s travel history tells a tragic story of accidents and deaths and isn’t set for improvement any time soon.
In the past decade, out of around 400 traffic accidents, eight people have died from the intersection of Lem Turner Road and I-295 in Duval County to the intersection of Lem Turner Road and U.S. 1 in Callahan since January 2009. Three of those deaths were within the past three months.
Four of the fatalities are within data collected by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles from the Florida Highway Patrol, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, FHP Public Information Officer Master Sgt. Dylan Bryan wrote via email.
“DHSMV is the centralized custodian of crash data as other departments report their crash data to us,” Bryan noted.
The other fatal accidents were reported by the Record through the years, but not within the DHSMV data.
Patricia Trantham, 58, died in a head-on collision on Lem Turner Road near Bell Lane Dec. 7.
Jacksonville’s Franklin Lee Fox, 58, was struck and killed by a car just north of Braddock Road as he attempted to walk across the road Nov. 20, 2009.
Two additional fatal crashes occurred within less than 36 hours on the two-lane road, with one of those in Nassau County, claiming the lives of Jacksonville residents Stewart Lee Bowles, 58, and Donald Francis Lewis, 58, Feb. 12 and Feb. 14.
The Record has reported numerous crashes involving serious injuries and deaths. Kelly Martinez, 11, died Nov. 2, 2007. The Callahan Middle School sixth-grader was struck by a vehicle as she crossed Lem Turner Road to reach her bus stop near her parents home.
Also in 2007, Kimberly Enlow, 17, died from injuries a little over a month after a head-on collision on Lem Turner Road inside Duval County. The accident also killed Tansi Nickerson, 39, of Jacksonville and her passenger, 2-month-old Alloysivis Murray.
The latest accident on Lem Turner Road occurred early Monday near Lannie Road. A Jacksonville bicyclist was critically injured after an SUV struck him at 12 a.m.
Alexander Iglesias, 34, was on his bicycle southbound when James Carl Davis, III, 39, of Callahan was driving a 2011 Chevy Traverse southbound and approached him from behind. The bicycle was traveling at a slower rate of speed when Davis failed to react in time and struck the bicycle with the vehicle’s front end, according to a media release from FHP.
Following the SUV’s impact, the bicyclist came to a rest in the southbound lane of Lem Turner Road. Davis’ vehicle came to a controlled stop just south of the injured man.
Iglesias, who was not wearing a helmet, was transported to UF Health Jacksonville.
The FHP covers areas of Lem Turner Road in both Duval and Nassau counties.
“The Florida Highway Patrol is committed to the safety of our community,” Bryan noted via email. “Lem Turner Road is also designated as (State Road) 115. Therefore, it falls within our scope of jurisdiction. We actively patrol that specific stretch of roadway and have numerous troopers that live throughout the area. While our increased visibility is a deterrent in itself, we proactively educate and enforce the traffic laws of our state in order to provide the safest roads possible for our community.”
Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper echoed a similar message, writing,
“Our traffic unit periodically works traffic details along Lem Turner Road and we will continue to do so. We also receive traffic complaints all over the county and respond to those as well.”
He emphasized the importance of vehicular safety.
“Driving is one of the most dangerous things most people do every day and that’s why it is very important to make sure motorists obey the posted speed limits, wear seatbelts, don’t drink and drive and don’t drive distracted or when tired. Most vehicle crashes are preventable, so please drive safe,” Leeper noted.
Area resident Tim Sweat posted on the Record’s Facebook page after learning about the two recent fatalities.
“Lem Turner is a dangerous road!!! Me and my family avoid it at all cost, a little bit of wasted gas is better than a wasted life in my opinion,” he wrote.
In an Aug. 11, 2016 story, the Record reported that Lem Turner Road was tapped for road widening within the North Florida TPO’s Path Forward 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan, pending funding and its addition by FDOT into the plan.
The 12-mile section of the road from I-295 in Duval to U.S. 1 in Nassau was to be widened from two to four lanes. A $1 million planning study that takes 12 to 18 months was also part of the preliminary engineering phase.
The project was slated to begin as early as 2022, with an $88 million cost estimate, including the $1 million planning study expense, according to TPO Planning Director Denise Bunnewith in 2016.
The project is still considered a priority, but funding affects its outcome.
Because it is an illustrated project, it “can only be included in the transportation plan if additional eligible funds beyond those in the existing financial plan become available,” wrote Samantha Rambeau, FDOT public information officer. “Currently, there are not enough eligible funds to pay for this proposed $88 million project. It is not part of the Florida Department of Transportation’s current five-year plan and will not begin construction in 2022.”
She continued, “Accord-ing to the long range plan, the expansion is considered a priority. If eligible funds above those included in the yearly financial plan became available, the department will evaluate this project as well as other projects and decide how to best move forward at that time.”