Sidewalk proposed for Arbor Lane

By Susanna P. Barton

 

Through a Safe Routes to School program, the state Department of Transportation seeks to install a sidewalk on Arbor Lane that could provide more secure neighborhood passage for children heading back to school this fall.

But lack of community outreach has some local residents calling for a curb to the plans.

“There wasn’t any outreach conducted with neighbors whose yards would be traversed by the new sidewalk,” explained District 5 City Councilwoman Lori Boyer. “Some of the neighbors are concerned.”

She said an FDOT representative planned to hold a meeting with neighbors and explain the process.

“People are just concerned when they don’t know what’s going on — when you involve people early on enough, usually things work out,” she said.

The proposed sidewalk would connect an existing sidewalk that currently ends where River Road and Arbor Lane split. The sidewalk extension would connect the River Road sidewalk down Arbor Lane to Hendricks Avenue, where it would join the Hendricks walkway.

Valerie Feinberg, a San Marco resident and San Marco Preservation Society member who has been active in the Safe Routes to School grant and the San Marco by Design study, said the need for a fully connected sidewalk on Arbor Lane came out of research and discussions with students walking or riding their bikes to school.

“We wanted to know how they came to school and what things they were encountering — and we found out a lot of good stuff,” Feinberg said. The study was part of a Safe Routes to School program grant Julia Landon College Preparatory and Leadership Development School has been working on for nearly two years. “What we learned was there were some kids coming from the neighborhood in the Arbor Lane River Road area who couldn’t stay on the sidewalk because it stops on Arbor Lane to Hendricks.”

The National Safe Routes to School program was signed into law in 2005 and dedicates $612 million toward Safe Routes to School. The Federal Highway Administration administers the program funds and provides guidance and regulations. The state DOT manages it locally and the city of Jacksonville provides maintenance. The funds are used for both infrastructure projects and non-infrastructure activities. The Landon study included bike and walking routes to school within a two-mile radius of the campus.

“What people don’t realize is that part of their yard is the city right-of-way many times,” Feinberg said. “And they’re upset because they’ve incorporated that property into their landscaping and have spent time and money on it.”

Feinberg said there was “some disconnect between what we wanted to do, the FDOT and public outreach.” She added that the Safe Routes to School representatives are the applicants, but are not the decision-makers when it comes to infrastructure projects.

In addition to the Arbor Lane sidewalk, several other ideas have come out of the Safe Routes to School initiative at Landon. They are looking at connecting sidewalks on LaSalle Street from Hendricks Avenue to San Marco Boulevard and on Mitchell Street. Another key area will be creating signage and crosswalks from Landon to the San Marco Public Library.

“Even though it’s just a short segment, during carpool times there are lots of cars and congestion — we’re trying to help rectify those areas,” Feinberg said.

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