As one road project ends, another begins

As one road project ends, another begins
A view of the multi-use path adjacent to the Fuller Warren Bridge between Riverside and San Marco that the Florida Department of Transportation plans to build as part of its I-10/I-95 roadway improvement project.

Drivers accessing I-95 through downtown Jacksonville are not out of the woods yet when it comes to battling road construction.

As the Overland Expressway and Interstate 95/J. Turner Butler flyover projects wind down toward completion in late spring and summer of this year, the Florida Department of Transportation plans to begin another major road project this spring, which will improve the Fuller Warren Bridge and exits near Riverside, causing congestion for I-95 drivers heading through the city.

However, taking a long view, many residents on both sides of the river will cheer the construction of a shared-use path dedicated for pedestrians and bicyclists that will straddle the river adjacent to the bridge, providing a safe connection between the historic communities on either side of the St. Johns.

Overland Bridge project

Drivers heading westbound on Atlantic Boulevard were forced to use detours during several nights in early January as the old northbound ramp to I-95 was removed.

The project will soon be entering its landscaping phase, said City Council President Lori Boyer, who also represents District 5. Included in the landscaping will be an “entrance feature” on the ground as drivers enter the San Marco area, as well as “buffering” in the section of the project near South Shores. “We may have palm trees alongside the highway on the area behind Overby’s (on Phillips Highway). They will be visible from the interstate but probably not seen from the surface streets,” Boyer said.

Scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2017, the $159.2 million Overland Bridge project replaces a series of overpasses that carry traffic over Hendricks, Kings and Montana Avenues on Interstate 95. Built in 1959, the bridges were gradually deteriorating due to heavy rain over the years, according to the FDOT website.

Construction started on the six-phase project in early 2013. Once complete, the project will serve to remedy congestion through widening I-95 by providing an additional lane in the southbound direction as well as adding capacity with the addition of a two-lane parallel service road for northbound traffic and reconstruction of the existing southbound lanes.

Also included in the project is the widening of the south end of the southbound Fuller Warren Bridge to provide a two-lane exit ramp to the southbound parallel service road; adding bicycle lanes on Atlantic Boule-vard from Kings Avenue to Stevens Street alongside the eastbound travel lanes and from Kings Avenue to Old Hickory Road alongside the westbound lanes; eliminating existing drainage ponds under the Fuller Warren Bridge with one remaining as a grassed lot and the other an improved parking lot.   

Fuller Warren Bridge improvements

This spring improvements are scheduled to begin on the I-10/I-95 interchange area near Riverside.

Two years ago, on February, 26, 2015, FDOT held a public meeting at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd to discuss proposed improvements to the I-10/I-95 interchange area near Riverside and ultimately decided make substantial improvements to eastbound 1-10 to southbound I-95, and northbound I-95 to westbound I-10 at a cost of $128 million.

Included among the changes for motor-
ists heading eastbound on I-10 and southbound on I-95 will be a new deceleration area for the Stockton Street off ramp, the widening from one to two lanes of the I-10 eastbound exit to I-95 south, and the addition of two southbound auxiliary lanes to the Fuller Warren Bridge.

For those driving northbound on I-95 to westbound I-10, an additional auxiliary lane is planned to the Fuller Warren Bridge. Also in the works is a widening from two to three lanes of the ramp from I-95 northbound to I-10 westbound and a new fly-over from I-95 northbound to Stockton Street with ramp modifications within the interchange area to eliminate weaving on I-10 caused by the ramps from I-95.

Shared-use path

Also included in the project is a $20 million shared-use path that will run adjacent to the south side of Fuller Warren bridge between Riverside and San Marco, which will be dedicated solely for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The path will have an “independent” ramp leading from the Riverside Arts Market up toward the Fuller Warren Bridge, said Odette Struys, a spokesperson for FDOT. “It will join the Fuller Warren Bridge before it crosses the water and will be separated by a traffic barrier,” she said, noting that a 10-foot shoulder will provide an additional cushion between the traffic and the barrier.

The multi-use path will be 12 feet in width – the same as a traffic lane. In addition to the traffic barrier there will be a tall fence, curved at the top to prevent items from being tossed from those using the multi-use path into the traffic lanes, she said, adding that on the side adjacent to the river a 4-foot-6-inch aluminum railing will separate the path from the river.

As the path nears the San Marco side, it will again separate from the bridge, forking north and south. Those choosing the north fork will be provided with a safe avenue underneath I-95’s southbound traffic lanes so they can reach Palm Avenue without having to cross any traffic, she said.

Meanwhile, those choosing to go south will connect with a ramp leading to a dedicated bike and pedestrian path behind Nemours Children’s Specialty Care. Nemours has already granted an easement to the City on its property behind its building so a connecting route from the multi-use path to Children’s Way in San Marco can be provided.

In its plans for the new Baptist MD Anderson campus, Baptist Health has included an eight-foot-wide, multi-use pedestrian and bike path along the north side of Children’s Way and Nira Streets, adjacent to its property from Palm to the railroad tracks, said Cindy Hamilton, director of public relations for Baptist Health. The path will not be open until the second quarter of 2018 when Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center’s new nine-story addition opens, she said.  Ideally the city hopes to use this as a safe way for cyclists and walkers to loop through North San Marco making connections between Riverside and the Southbank Riverwalk.

“What’s nice about this is the bridge will connect the neighborhoods of San Marco and Riverside by giving access to either neighborhood,” said Struys.

I-95/JTB Flyover

Congestion for drivers heading south on Interstate 95 will ease up this spring when the I-95/JTB Flyover project is completed in late May 2017.

To improve traffic flow at the busy interchange between J. Turner Butler Boulevard and I-95, FDOT has been constructing a new two-lane, 1,400-foot flyover from southbound I-95 to eastbound JTB so drivers experience less congestion as they head toward the Town Center and Beaches. Drivers commuting to downtown will be able to take advantage of a small flyover from westbound JTB to I-95.

The $66 million project, which began construction in August 2014, will also include a resurfacing of certain areas of JTB, widening and drainage installation for on and off ramps from I-95 and JTB, and new ponds for drainage within the projects limits.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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