Last JTA workshop signals beginning of planning period

The Jacksonville Transit Authority wrapped up the last of 12 “MobilityWorks” community workshops, this one focusing on Philips Highway. The workshop, held Feb. 2 at Southside Assembly of God, was sparsely attended. Those who took part raised several concerns, such as crosswalks missing at intersections and the lack of sidewalks connecting to bus stops along the long corridor.

David Cain, owner of Paint Works, an automotive body and interior repair shop at 2717 Philips Hwy., was at the meeting to vent frustration with loss of on-street parking at his business after the Florida Department of Transportation created a bicycle lane during last year’s $6.2 million repaving project.

Cain’s issue was not a result of any work done by the JTA, but he hoped to find a sympathetic ear at the meeting. Jim Hill, a member of the Southeast Citizens Planning Advisory Committee (CPAC), took notes as Cain explained he currently has no parking for his customers at the commercial property, which has been in existence since 1960. He said he would be unable to sell that property without accommodation for parking.

No sense of place

The Southside portion of U.S. 1, Philips Highway was completed in 1934 and named after Duval County Judge Henry Philips.

“It’s a long corridor, probably four or five miles of roadway,” said William Roll, a transportation planning practice builder with Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. “It has a much different characteristic from one end to the other.”

The northern end of Philips Highway has a transitioning urban cross-section, then it begins to become increasingly industrial as residential disappears, said Roll. The middle portion includes large-box retailers such as Lowe’s, a commercial corridor and commerce office parks. The southern end is comprised of undeveloped area, with no development around the interstate, other than The Avenues, a very large regional mall.

“There are no sidewalks, but there are transit stops,” Roll said. “One of the things that concerns me is the interstate is a barrier and the only way you can cross is where someone has built a crossing.”

The JTA spent the past year reviewing 14 mobility corridors with a focus on transit, pedestrian and bicycle movement within each, for future projects that may include sidewalks, bike paths, transit accessibility improvements, lighting, bus shelters, landscaping and more.

“This is a much more highway-oriented, older commercial corridor, which doesn’t have a sense of place,” said Fred Jones, senior transportation planner for JTA. “A lot of what we anticipate we’ll hear will be more of those short-term design issues, such as ‘we need a crosswalk here or a sidewalk there.’ You’re not going to get ‘Here’s our roundabout idea,’ but certainly it doesn’t lack the need for key critical safety improvements for cyclists and pedestrians in a heavily traveled corridor,” he said.

“We have a lot of individuals who walk, who bike, who are transit riders, so some of the key things are improvements at the intersections,” said Roll. “There are often no crosswalks or where there are signals and crosswalks, the design may not be very conducive to pedestrians. When transit stops are mid-block we can expect a lot of people crossing there.”

Jones said they will wrap up preliminary planning and design with the goal of having draft reports available in mid to late March.

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 corridors, funded by the extension of the Local Option Gas Tax with $100 million in bonds issued to cover the cost of 27 projects over the next five years.

“Obviously a lot of these corridors are quite long, and we wanted to identify places where we could potentially go in and retrofit, where we could focus our efforts,” said Jones. “All of these corridors were selected by virtue of having 15 minute or less transit service.”

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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