Residents to make pre-emptive strike at anticipated traffic

By Lara Patangan
Resident Community News

In the 20 seconds it takes Shane Sheffield, a resident of Marco Place, to go outside to get his morning newspaper six cars whiz by, cutting through his otherwise quiet

It’s an ongoing problem; one that he is concerned will be exacerbated by the planned East San Marco Development’s 240-unit apartment complex and retail space anchored by a Publix supermarket.

Already, cut-through traffic speeds through Sheffield’s neighborhood to avoid the congested intersection on the corner of Hendricks Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard where zoning for the planned development was approved in March.

But Sheffield and other residents with similar concerns about speedy commuters are optimistic that a neighborhood meeting scheduled next month will steer them closer to a solution for when the rubber hits the road.

That meeting will be held on Wed., May 28 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at San Marco Preservation Hall to talk about neighborhood traffic in the area between Belote Place and Hendricks Avenue south to Pineridge Road.

While the mixed-use project known as East San Marco appears to be on hold because Whitehall Realty Partners was unable to secure investors to purchase the project from Regency Centers as planned, neighbors surrounding the areas of the development are still proceeding with efforts to curb cut-through traffic.

The purpose of the meeting, which will be led by Doug Skiles, president of EnVision Design + Engineering who was heavily involved in the renovation of San Marco Square, and Andrew Dickson, San Marco Preservation Society Traffic Safety Chair, is to present some potential solutions for traffic abatement and get a consensus from the neighborhood about which route they would like to take.

Through a petition process, a 75 percent consensus must be reached from residents on the affected street in order to implement changes.
In addition, homeowners are expected to pay 50 percent of the cost of the preferred traffic calming technique. If approved, the City would pay the remaining cost.
Some residents have already met with Jim Robinson, Director of Public Works for the City of Jacksonville, and District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer to discuss the array of traffic calming options and the pros and cons of each.

Discussions included speed tables, stop signs, and adding medians and curbs.
According to Boyer, the issue of cut-through traffic in residential areas is not unique to this neighborhood and may become a pilot for other parts of San Marco including River Road and Colonial Manor which are experiencing similar problems.

At the upcoming May meeting a series of maps will portray the various options to reduce speed and the volume of traffic. Corresponding petition forms will be available for each so that the canvassing of residents can begin.

One potential solution that is receiving notable interest because of its simplicity and cost effectiveness is to make a one block portion of Belote Place from Atlantic Boulevard one-way, forcing drivers to take a right on Alford Place.

This would deter drivers on Hendricks Avenue from cutting through streets such as Marco Place to get to Atlantic Boulevard. Because Belote Place would be one-way for the segment that feeds into Atlantic Boulevard, cars would no longer be able to exit from that route.

“The most compelling solution is to make a few segments one-way which costs virtually nothing,” explained Dickson. “Whatever happens there, whether it’s East San Marco or some other development, you are going to have more pedestrians and more cars. We have some tools to make positive changes and would like to proceed so the petition process can start for the improvements the neighborhood wants.”

Joe Mark, a resident of Broadmoor Lane, is eager to start the process acknowledging that regardless of the fate of East San Marco, the neighborhood is already dealing with the hazards of speeding commuters and the potential development has been an impetus to find a solution.

“Development is good, it just needs to be responsible. Overall there are more positives than negatives,” said Mark. “We had a problem before and we still have a problem so maybe something good will come out of it.”

Likewise, Sheffield is optimistic that a solution can be reached.
“Cut through-traffic was not what my neighborhood was made for,” said Sheffield. “But Robinson was very receptive to helping us find a solution. Whether there is a development or not, it’s an issue we need to address.”

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