Park Street corridor to include more pedestrian, cyclist safety

Park Street corridor to include more pedestrian, cyclist safety
Linda and Paul Bremer affix their “wish list” stickers to one of 10 potential Park Street enhancements identified by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority.

With an eye to a future that puts walking and bicycling into the transportation mix, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority began in August 2015 to hold a series of charrettes focusing on 14 mobility corridors throughout Duval County

The charrettes – meetings allowing all stakeholders to identify issues and develop solutions – came on the heels of the introduction of the JTA’s Route Optimization Initiative in November 2015.

Last month residents from Orange Park up to 5 Points were invited to attend a charrette to help improve the transit corridor along Blanding Boulevard and Park Street.

“We’ve restructured the routes but we have to fill in the gaps for the bicyclists and pedestrians who are trying to access the system,” said Fred Jones, JTA senior transportation planner. “We’ve spent the last 50 years thinking more about vehicles while pedestrians and bicyclists are been left behind in the equation,” he said. “We’re trying to step back and find out what we can do differently. A lot of our metropolitan areas developed after World War II and the design has been built around the automobile.”

Jones said Jacksonville is the third worst metropolitan area in the country for pedestrian deaths, “which is an indictment. It’s possibly the worst health threat that Northeast Florida is facing.”

The JTA is reviewing vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle movements within each of the 14 mobility corridors, looking for short-term and long-term improvements that benefit safety and accessibility for all users of the road, with the intent of having the ability to do some “place-making,” according to Jones, who is project manager for the Complete Streets Program, a philosophy about re-conceptualizing the right of ways to maximize access for all users.

An allocation of $15 million will be used for a combination of prioritized corridors/projects, including $10 million for the Complete Streets program and $5 million for transit amenities and ADA access (i.e., new shelters, pads, ADA access and ramps) throughout the 14 mobility corridors.

When asked what the timing was for short- and long-term improvements, Jones said short-term was two to five years, while long-term was five to 10 years and contingent on funding.

“The success of the potential enhancements is contingent on partnerships with the city, with Florida Department of Transportation, and on getting transportation dollars from the Federal Transit Authority,” he said.

Desired improvements

For two days the workshops, held Jan. 27-28 at Riverside Baptist Church, drew concerned residents and invited suggestions for improvements along Park Street from its “gateway” into Avondale east of Florida State College Jacksonville’s Kent Campus on Roosevelt Boulevard.

The top desired improvement on Park Street in Avondale and Riverside was to narrow travel lanes where possible. Avondale residents would also like to see sidewalks added where needed, crosswalks with pedestrian signals at all signalized intersections, median refuge islands with mid-block pedestrian crossings and a neighborhood greenway for bicyclists. Speed and parking were also top priorities for Riverside, where comments suggested a reduction to 25 mph as well as either widen existing sidewalks or add striped parallel parking when travel lanes are narrowed.

Of note, there were no votes for angle parking along Park Street, but there were suggestions to remove the current angle parking.

Some of the comments posted on the workshop boards included requests to slow traffic at Edgewood Avenue and Park Street with speed humps or a roundabout; install bicycle corrals in 5 Points; close the Park and King Street intersection on the weekend to encourage walking and bicycling; make Post and College Streets one-way; put bicycle lanes on Edgewood Avenue, and reduce the number of bus stops at Acosta and Park Streets.

Why Park Street?

A question was asked regarding the rationale for Park Street to be part of the First Coast Flyer corridor after buses come up Blanding Boulevard from the Orange Park Mall. Instead of entering Roosevelt Boulevard at Park Street, the rapid transit buses cross U.S. 17, then continue up Park Street through Avondale, Riverside and 5 Points.

According to JTA officials, during a past environmental assessment in which Riverside Avondale Preservation was involved, there was a community desire to have services along Park Street accessible via public transportation. The Park Street corridor has more retail, medical and education services than Roosevelt Boulevard north of Florida State College Jacksonville.

“[A route on] Park Street provides more access for the neighborhoods,” said Leigh Ann Rassler, JTA spokesperson.

Over the next six weeks, Jones said they will wrap up preliminary planning and design with the goal of having draft reports available in mid to late March. “The next step is to prioritize the corridors,” said Jones. “We’re going to try to emphasize the leading candidates and then work on implementation.”

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News
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