Hendricks residents’ parking concerns fall on deaf ears at FDOT

Hendricks residents’ parking concerns fall on deaf ears at FDOT
Unhappy residents Todd Osburn, Lamar Terry, and Patricia Bridgeman stand alongside some parked cars in front of Bridgeman’s home on Hendricks Avenue.

Although it may be too late, Hendricks Avenue residents who live in the half-mile residential stretch between Dunsford Road and San Marco Boulevard are praying the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will yet find a compromise that will protect the on-street parking in front of their homes, which is slated to be eliminated when State Road 13 is resurfaced.

“The reality of it is, until the day they put wet paint on the pavement, it’s not too late,” said Hendricks Avenue resident Lamar Terry, whose family has lived in his home since 1960. “Our bottom line is kind of a plea. We are asking FDOT to please compromise for this half mile of road and utilize the practice that is already in existence. We’re not asking for anything new or to not accommodate any particular group.”

FDOT’s original resurfacing plan was to replace on-street parking with a seven-foot dedicated bike lane along all but a small section of the busy corridor from Cornell Street to San Marco Boulevard. During a public meeting in January 2016, FDOT received pushback from Hendricks Avenue business owners, which caused the agency to roll out a compromise during a public meeting in May 2016, which was well received by both the bicycle and business communities.

The new plan, which is currently under construction, incorporated both dedicated bike lanes and on-street parking from Peachtree Circle North to Dunsford Road. In that section, FDOT will widen the roadway by reducing the median from 20 feet to 12 feet, allowing for two 11-foot travel lanes in each direction as well as a 5.5-foot bike lane and 8-foot parking lane.

Several Hendricks Avenue residents who live in the residential section north of the business area and attended both public meetings cannot understand why FDOT ignored their pleas to keep on-street parking in front of their homes, which is essential to their “quality of life.”

According to Terry, the residents would be happy with the same accommodation FDOT has made for the businesses near Metro Diner. After he measured the road in both locations with a laser device, Terry contends this is feasible because the width of the road is exactly the same.

“What makes the Metro Diner, the antique store, and Mr. Carlucci’s business more in need of parking than the residents that live here and pay taxes as well?” he asked. “Why is there less value for parking in front of our homes than there is in front of someone’s business?”

Pat Bridgeman, whose family has lived on Hendricks for more than 50 years, agreed. “They are discriminating against the residents that have been here the longest,” she said. “I think it’s totally unfair. FDOT is completely disregarding us residents from Dunsford down to San Marco Boulevard. FDOT is prejudiced against residents,” she said.

“It will really hurt my family,” she continued, adding that her friends, lawn service company, and delivery services, will have to park on nearby side streets, inconveniencing everyone, including the side-street residents. Also, if the only parking available lies across Hendricks Avenue, pedestrians may find it dangerous to traverse Hendricks without a crosswalk nearby, she said. “Heaven forbid you might want to have a Super Bowl party at your house. Without the parking, it’s just not going to happen.”

With a very little space in her driveway, backing out of her driveway onto Hendricks, with traffic racing by at over 40 mph, is difficult, Bridgeman said. “There is so much more traffic now and the light at River Oaks doesn’t hold very long. By the time you start to back out, the light has changed, and the traffic is right on you,” she said. “I’d love to see the speed on Hendricks reduced.”

San Marco Square merchants rely on using the 80 to 100 on-street parking spaces near her home when special events take place during the holidays, said Terry. “We supply the overflow parking to San Marco Square. This will make a big impact not only for our family life, which will really be hurt, but also for the Square and the businesses down there,” said Bridgeman.

FDOT had good reasons for its final decision, said Sara Pleasants, FDOT public information officer.

“The existing roadway typical section contains additional space between the travel lanes and the outside curb. Although this area is not designated as a parking lane, it has historically been used for parking and, when available, as a wide bicycle lane or temporary parking for service trucks or other vendors. During the public meetings for this project held in 2015 and 2016, businesses between Lakewood Road and Southside United Methodist Church shared concerns that their customers would lose the ability to park on State Road 13. Ultimately, the Department was able to reduce the width of the landscape median between Peachtree Circle North and Dunsford Road to allow both designated bike lanes and designated parking lanes. Unfortunately, this option was not viable from Dunsford Road to San Marco Boulevard due to limited existing right-of-way, so space to provide designated parking lanes in front of residences within the north portion of the project limits could not be accommodated,” she wrote in an email.

Pleasants said the designated bicycle lanes are essential because State Road 13 has been designated a bicycle route as part of the City of Jacksonville’s master plan. “Providing multi-modal opportunity is required in this designation, so a designated bike lane is included throughout the project limits from Cornell Road to San Marco Boulevard,” she wrote.

“With all resurfacing projects, FDOT looks for opportunities to make the roadway safer for all users – motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. The design of the State Road 13 resurfacing project includes a number of safety improvements, such as sight-distance improvements at San Jose Boulevard South; ADA-accessible upgrades to sidewalk ramps and bus stops; the addition of audible countdown pedestrian timers at Ridgeland Road, River Oaks Road, Dunsford Road and Hendricks Avenue Elementary School; and new traffic signals, mast arms and crosswalk improvements, including countdown audible pedestrian timers, at Emerson Street and Greenridge Road,” she wrote.

In contrast, FDOT’s recent resurfacing of Emerson Road did not include bicycle lanes because it is not considered a “priority project” in the City of Jacksonville’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan, Pleasants said.

Since the May 2016 public meeting held by FDOT, Terry said he and his neighbors have reached out to District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer, as well as FDOT, numerous times with possible ways to compromise. Their solution is to lower the speed limit in front of their homes to 30 mph, which is typical for residential areas; place signage and paint share-the-road markings on the right travel lane to accommodate cyclists; and encourage bike commuters to use the sidewalk as many already do, while keeping the on-street parking. Having motorists and bicyclists share the right traffic lane also makes turning left onto San Marco Boulevard easier, he said.

Terry also suggested the city and FDOT consider transforming the half-mile residential stretch to one lane with on-street parking and wide medians similar to what was done on San Marco Boulevard north of the Square. This would help with traffic calming and encourage motorists to utilize I-95 instead of cutting through the San Marco neighborhood, he said.

James M. Knight, urban planning and modal administrator for FDOT, and other state engineering officials met with Hendricks residents July 15, 2016 in front of Bridgeman’s home to discuss their concerns, but left the residents unsatisfied.

“We put out every possible compromise, and at the end of the day it didn’t seem like DOT wanted to make a real effort to develop a true compromise, and the compromises they came up with would only create major inconveniences in other parts of the neighborhood,” said Matt Carlucci, a San Marco resident who attended the meeting. “The residents did not say they didn’t want bicycle lanes. Nobody was asking FDOT to get rid of the medians. There should be enough room to squeeze in both. There was one engineer that said it could be done, but he was never able to put forth his concept, and I felt bad for the folks who need that parking. Their homes are going to be an island unto themselves,” he said.

Carlucci said he and the other residents tried to follow up with FDOT later but received no response. “It really hurts when you make a phone call or email FDOT and you don’t get a return call or response,” he said.

Terry offered several potential solutions in a lengthy packet sent to Boyer and FDOT dated August 2016. Neither Boyer nor FDOT officials ever acknowledged receiving his packet,” he said. In an email to The Resident, Boyer said she was unaware of the packet and her secretary was unable to locate it in her email.

“FDOT standards and processes govern the project as it is not a city road,” wrote Boyer.  “I realize the hardship for residents when they have visitors who use current on-street parking spaces and will be forced to now park on side streets. However, I watched and participated in FDOT’s hearings and believe they have arrived at a reasonable compromise,” she wrote.

“The addition of bicycle lanes is not simply a fitness or recreation decision. As the number of cars traveling on the roadway increases, the road becomes more dangerous for motorists, and we see the pressure on the neighborhood cut-through traffic. We cannot simply continue to add vehicle lanes without impacting yards fronting the roadway, without increasing the number of crashes and without forcing more cut-through,” she continued.

“Alternative modes of travel such as bicycling and walking – whether for short trips to the Square or for commutes to work – can reduce the demand on vehicle lanes and have been proven to do so in cities throughout the country. But that will not happen unless there are dedicated facilities for those users where they can feel safe. Our city’s ranking as one of the most dangerous in the country for pedestrians and bicyclists is testimony to the public safety hazards that our current facilities present,” Boyer said.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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