Southbank’s Riverplace Boulevard: Creating a streetscape for the future

Southbank’s Riverplace Boulevard: Creating a streetscape for the future
Existing photograph of “Big Bend” on Riverplace Boulevard as it exists today before the lanes are reconfigured to make the area more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.

The city of Jacksonville is one step closer to building a better road for its “urban village” on the Southbank. The Downtown Development Review Board approved a plan Feb. 18 to reconfigure the lanes on Riverplace Boulevard so it can become more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly.

Public meetings to discuss the Riverplace road diet project took place in September and December at the Lexington Hotel. The December meeting gave residents the opportunity to review three different road design options, and city officials subsequently have selected Option C.

Working on the plan were Nicholas Mousa of JBC Planning and Engineering, Pete Sechler of Community Solutions of Orlando, Ruth Perry of GAI Consultants and Lara Diettrich of Diettrich Planning. With the DDRB’s approval, the project is now at the engineering stage and has been put out for bids, said Guy Parola of the Downtown Investment Authority. Construction is expected to begin in early 2017 and should take nine months to complete, he said.

The goal of the “road diet” is to reduce Riverplace Boulevard from its existing condition as a five-lane expressway intended to evacuate the city at 5 p.m. to a street that will better serve diverse groups of people with different needs.

Some objectives transportation planners put into the final plan were to reduce the travel lanes in order to initiate traffic calming; landscape the corridor for a more attractive streetscape; make bicycle and pedestrian improvements such as safer crosswalks and delineated bike lanes; create a better connection to access the Southbank Riverwalk; and make accommodations for public transit.

In a PowerPoint presentation developed by the Downtown Investment Authority, DDRB officials reviewed “Option C,” a model that would reduce Riverplace Boulevard’s five lanes to three, and work into its 105 feet of roadway pedestrian sidewalks, dedicated protected bike lanes, on-street parking, “feature furnishings” such as lighting, banner graphics, sidewalk seating, and landscaping that will allow for a tree canopy to provide shade within its urban corridor.

Because the existing boulevard narrows from 105 feet near Main Street to 84 feet near Prudential Drive, the roadway designers had to develop a plan that would separate cyclists from the pedestrians while protecting them from open car doors from vehicles parked on the street and allow the designated bike lanes to align at both ends of the road. The designers also had to come up with a way to navigate the “Big Bend” in the boulevard with its numerous driveways and still accommodate left turns.

The ingenious plan they presented incorporates all the elements, including 36 on-street parking spaces, which are necessary to transform the roadway into a place that is more environmentally and physically healthy.

RoadDiet_After

At the Main Street end of Riverplace Boulevard, where the road spans 105 feet, an eight-foot pedestrian walkway will line both sides. An eight-foot greenspace divides the sidewalk from a five-foot dedicated bike path. A three-foot border then protects the bikers from 7.5 feet of on-street parking. In the middle, two 11-foot traffic lanes will be divided by a 12-foot dedicated turn lane.

To accommodate a 13-foot transit stop for JTA buses on each side of the road further down toward the curve, the designers eliminated a stretch of on-street parking and changed the widths of the greenspace on one side of the road to six feet.

In the narrowed section after “Big Bend” near The Peninsula, the widths of the greenspace is reduced on both sides of the street, measuring five feet on one and three feet on the other, and on-street parking lines only one side.

To make the bend area more user-friendly, in the plan are a large marked pedestrian crossing and Riverwalk access signage as well as tightened driveways, lighting and banner graphics, “furnishing” zones for pedestrian seating as well as opportunities for an outdoor dining plaza opening to a streetscape trail.

“We’re working on setting up the infrastructure for long-term success on the Southbank Riverfront,” Sechler said during the December public meeting.

“We need to build a street to support what we think the future is,” he said.


By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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