Residents discuss Mitchell Avenue traffic calming proposal at Town Meeting

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” is the way Matthew Carlucci of San Marco summed up the dilemma facing San Marco residents, who were presented a proposal to change the traffic pattern at the intersection of Hendricks and Mitchell Avenues.

At a town meeting hosted by City Council President Lori Boyer May 22 at Preservation Hall, more than 25 San Marco neighbors came together to discuss the proposal to eliminate the dedicated right-turn lane northbound from Hendricks onto Mitchell and convert part of Mitchell Avenue into a one-way street as it heads west toward Hendricks.

The meeting came on the heels of another Town Hall discussion about the proposed Jackson Square Development. Joining Boyer at the second meeting were Jacksonville Operations Director of Public Works William Joyce and Nelson Caparas, Jacksonville chief of traffic engineering.

In June, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) plans to resurface Hendricks Avenue and San Jose Boulevard. As part of the project, FDOT intends to eliminate arrows marking the dedicated northbound right-turn lane on Hendricks that allows traffic to turn onto Mitchell Avenue, Boyer said. “You will still be able to turn right, but it won’t be like ‘hey, turn this way,’” explained Boyer. “Hendricks will be two straight-forward lanes without a dedicated right-turn lane,” she said.

To assist with traffic calming and to discourage cut-through traffic seeking a way to bypass the intersection of Hendricks and Atlantic Boulevard, Jacksonville Public Works has proposed eliminating the right turn from Hendricks onto Mitchell by posting appropriate signage and striping over the existing right-turn lane on Hendricks and partway on Mitchell.

For residents with driveways bordering Mitchell Avenue, the street would remain a two-way, except for a short, striped portion of the road near its intersection with Hendricks. That small portion would become a one-way street, allowing motorists only to turn right from Mitchell onto the busy Hendricks thoroughfare.

Although many Mitchell Avenue residents favored the plan because a long stream of traffic prevents them from leaving their driveways in the early morning, it was not received well by others who live on adjacent streets in the Whatley Park area neighborhood.

“If you shut off the right turn onto Mitchell you will put more traffic on Marco Place,” said Robin Robinson, a Marco Place resident. “We also have to sit in our driveways to back out because there is so much cut-through traffic. Now there are 10 residences on Mitchell Avenue that have a problem, but there are 15 on Marco Place with driveways that have a problem. It’s not fair to dump more traffic onto our street,” she said.

Don Halil, an Alexandria Place resident with a driveway adjacent to Mitchell Avenue, approved of the plan and said it was good to be proactive in anticipation of the new East San Marco development and Publix, which may be built in the future. He also noted that, once the grocery store was built, heavy delivery trucks would be arriving down the span at 5:30 a.m.

Gordon Mott, a San Marco resident, also approved of the idea saying that the right-turn lane was a danger to pedestrians because “people swing around the corner at a speed that is not appropriate.”

But Robinson had none of it. “Right now, the project is on hold and not happening. Let’s readdress the whole issue when East San Marco is actually going to happen,” she said, adding that she was fine with the idea of FDOT removing the arrows marking the right-turn lane.

Recognizing it was impossible to get a consensus, Boyer moved on. She spoke of multiple meetings, which had occurred over the past few years, where residents discussed building a median down Marco Place to slow traffic as well as plans to reduce the speed limit from 30 to 20 mph or to install a series of one-way streets through the area as a deterrent to outside traffic. “All these options have been floated and met with opposition and have not been implemented,” she said.

“I think what we need to get to in terms of a mindset is that we are an urban neighborhood, and we need to realize it is not about how many cars there are but how fast they go. There will be traffic, and it will be backed up. But if you look at the traffic in Washington D.C. and the Georgetown neighborhood, and other urban neighborhoods, there are a lot of cars and it’s slow, which Jacksonville drivers don’t want to do. The reason they are cutting is because they still want to go 45 mph and get there in five minutes,” she continued.

“We need to convince people that once you get into this area, it is better to stay on the interstate if you want to go fast. Once motorists get off and onto surface streets, we need for them to slow down so they can be aware of cars backing out or turning into businesses, and kids crossing the street. That’s where we need to go mentally, because I don’t think we are going to be able to move the quantity of cars that are coming into this bottleneck at a rapid speed. Everybody is going to have to accept a slower speed.”

The group discussed the petition procedure for reducing the speed in the neighborhood to 20 mph, with Boyer stating that 75 percent of the homeowners on each street needed to sign in favor of the petition.

Boyer said some San Marco merchants and other residents have requested on-street parking replace the dedicated right-turn lane at the Hendricks-Mitchell intersection, and she would have Public Works study its feasibility. Having parked cars there may serve as a deterrent, she said.

Boyer’s office will send anyone who requests it a copy of plan to install one-way streets through the area. Before any plan is implemented, notices will be sent to all residents on adjacent streets notifying them of the proposed change and another town meeting would be called, she said. “If I get emails back showing there is an interest in the neighborhood, I will do it again,” she said.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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