Residents asked for input on JTA Mobility Works Program

Residents asked for input on JTA Mobility Works Program



Now that the Jacksonville Transportation Authority has restructured the bus routes in an effort to make public transportation more frequent and reliable, it is turning its sights on infrastructure.

With an eye toward improving roadways to enhance business development and revitalize the community, JTA transportation consultants have been studying ways to make some of Jacksonville’s “high frequency transit corridors,” such as Beach Boulevard in St. Nicholas, more walkable and safer for pedestrians as they get to and from bus stops.

As part of its Mobility Works program, JTA reached out to St. Nicholas residents for feedback during a series of three charrettes held at St. Nicholas Park Christian Church in mid-October.

JTA Mobility Works is a program designed to complete projects funded by the local-option gas tax, which was extended in the spring of 2014 by the City Council for another 20 years. In order to leverage this future funding, JTA has issued bonds to cover the cost of the projects, generating $100 million through the bond issue.

With this money, JTA plans to complete 13 roadway and 14 mobility corridors projects within the city over the next five years.

Consultants from Nelson and Nygaard and RS&H have been hired to assist JTA in reviewing transit, pedestrian and bicycle movements within each mobility corridor. They have been reaching out to “every conceivable community group to determine what projects will be most beneficial to the neighborhood now and in the future,” said JTA Senior Transportation Planner Frederick N. Jones during a charrette in St. Nicholas Oct. 15.  “We have no preconceived notions about this,” said Jones. “We want to allow the community to have input and vision.”

The projects include items such as sidewalks, bike paths, transit accessibility improvements, lighting, bus shelters, landscaping and reducing the number of lanes on some roads.

After gathering information on all 14 corridors, JTA will begin prioritizing its projects in the spring of 2016, Jones said. Improvements will begin to be implemented in the fall of 2017, he said.

Approximately $15 million will be available for improvements with $5 million going toward transit enhancements such as shelters, sidewalks, and ways to make areas more ADA compliant. The remaining $10 million will go to improving the mobility corridors with $1 million of it for planning and the remaining $9 million to implement infrastructure changes.

Looking at St. Nicholas ‘triangle’

St. Nicholas residents should curtail their “expectations” because funding must be stretched between many possible projects, Jones said. JTA will make less costly changes in the beginning and look toward long-term improvements in the future. “Big picture projects cannot be done without more funding,” he said.

In studying the Beach Boulevard corridor, JTA consultants looked at the St. Nicholas Town Center Vision Plan from 2004 and the Southeast Vision Plan for Jacksonville from 2010, two “critical” plans that have already been approved by the City Council, Jones said. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel with this,” he said.

In the St. Nicholas charrette, the consultants discussed the section of Beach Boulevard extending from University Boulevard to the Overland Expressway. Residents have complained about excessive speed, difficulty crossing Beach Boulevard near the shops and a desire for more lighting and signage, said Michael R. King of Nelson and Nygaard.

One suggestion offered by the consultants was to move the US 90 designation from Beach Boulevard to the Hart Expressway, making the heavily traveled corridor from the Beach bypass St. Nicholas Town Center.

Another suggestion would be to slow traffic near St. Nicholas Town Center by planting a median and providing more on-street parking as well as bike lanes. It’s possible to reduce the number of lanes in this area because the number of cars traveling this portion of Beach Boulevard has lessened in recent years to 18,000-19,000 vehicles per day, he said. Hurricane evaluation is not an issue, he said.

One other suggestion, which was well received by residents in the room, is to make Beach Boulevard one way from the Mudville Grille to Linden Street, which would also be one way, funneling traffic from Beach to Atlantic Boulevard.  Atlantic would become a one-way street from Linden headed into downtown. Both Atlantic and Beach would remain two-way roads until they reach Linden. On Beach, traffic would be one way heading east from San Marco until Linden. Beach would remain a two-way road east of Linden with traffic moving east and west.

This plan would create a one-way triangle around St. Nicholas Town Center, calming traffic and enhancing the business community, he said. The plan would require Atlantic and Beach being reduced to three lanes in this area and the speed limit would be lowered to 35 mph.

Removing the overpass near the conjunction of Atlantic and Beach was also discussed and a “wiggle” road would be built in its place, as is shown in the 2004 St. Nicholas Town Center vision plan, he said.

Another option would be to work with the overpass and make Beach three lanes (with a middle turn lane) instead of four within St. Nicholas town center from Walton Street to Schumacher Avenue, bringing back on-street parking and a bike lane.

Any improvements would be done in phases, King said. In the short term he sees completing sidewalks, adding a pedestrian crossing on Beach Boulevard near the bus stop and shops on Beach in St. Nicholas Center and enhancing the walking routes from the bus stop to the neighborhoods. Also removing the sign signaling Beach Boulevard as a route toward the beach might be instituted as well as making the pedestrian bridge over Beach at Bishop Kenny a gateway to the St. Nicholas neighborhood.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News
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