Oak Street repaving project to include bike lanes, eliminate parking

The City of Jacksonville will begin repaving Oak Street this summer, and residents and business owners are helping shape what the area will look like after the project is done.

After the City is done repaving Oak Street, the City proposes to narrow travel lanes, add dedicated bicycle paths, and remove parallel parking on one side of the street.
After the City is done repaving Oak Street, the City proposes to narrow travel lanes, add dedicated bicycle paths, and remove parallel parking on one side of the street.

Right now, City officials are considering reducing the size of the lanes of traffic and adding bike lanes after the paving is done between Margaret and King Streets. It won’t take much to change the traffic flow, just choosing where to put down the markings after the project is done. Yet, that might mean less parking for businesses in an area where parking is at a premium, leading District 14 Councilwoman Randy DeFoor to request a parking study.

The City already has plans and the budget to repave Oak Street and could use the final phase of the project – marking the road – to reconfigure traffic flow and add bike lanes. Right now, the intention is to narrow the lanes of travel and add bike lanes to both sides. However, the plans also call for doing away with the parallel parking along the road, and that has businesses in the area concerned about where their customers will park.

The City wants to connect the bike lanes with the Emerald Trail, a network of walking and biking paths on the south and north banks of the St. Johns River that are part of a public-private partnership aimed at making the City more accessible to non-vehicular traffic. 

“Oak Street will ultimately connect in with the Emerald Trail, it’s a project going on in Jacksonville, about 17 miles of multi-use paths,” said Karissa Moffett, City bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, during a Zoom meeting hosted by Riverside Avondale Preservation (RAP) April 30. She said Oak Street would also connect with the Fuller Warren pedestrian bridge, slated to be finished at the end of summer or early fall this year.

The City will begin repaving Oak Street this summer.
The City will begin repaving Oak Street this summer.

 RAP hosted the Zoom meeting with City officials, neighbors, and business owners to discuss the possible changes. In attendance were District 14 City Councilwoman Randy DeFoor, RAP Executive Director Warren Jones, City Chief of Transportation Division Laurie Santana, Chris LeDew, chief traffic engineer with the City Public Works Department, and Moffett. The meeting ran long as residents asked questions about the project, which is in an area that’s a mix of businesses and homes.

 Many were happy about the possibility of biking more safely, and some business owners said they would love to encourage their clients to bike to their businesses. Others were concerned about how their clients would be able to find a spot to park if parking was reduced in the area.

Healy Dwyer, a participant at the meeting, said she lives close to the proposed project and liked the idea of being able to bike more safely.

“I just wanted to voice my support,” she said. “I live two streets behind Oak right behind 5 Points. I bike and walk to King Street and 5 Points, and I usually bike to get my hair cut. I think one of the biggest blockers to biking somewhere is (bikers) don’t feel safe. I get honked at a lot by people. It is a stressful experience. I think adding a bike lane is a great idea. I’m really excited about it.”

The section of Oak Street under consideration fronts several businesses, including Hair Peace and the law firm of Finnell, McGuinness, Nezami and Andux, as well as Publix in Riverside. After construction and restriping, the parking would be shifted to one side of the road and the car travel lanes would be reduced from 20 feet to 10 feet. The City chose Oak Street because it is filled with residents and businesses, and the new paths would encourage active participation, Moffett said. 

Patrick McGuiness of Finnell, McGuinness, Nezami and Andux, located at the corner of Oak and Goodwin Streets, had questions about parking.

“We have people coming and parking in our office lot because the parking is inadequate. If you remove half of it you are putting people out of business,” he said during the Zoom meeting.

Jack Shad, another meeting participant, said he liked the idea but was also worried about parking.

“This is a great corridor to get down toward Publix,” he said. “I’m very happy with the project. I do want to talk about parking. That’s what everyone talks about when you change the roadway.” Shad said he works out of the Delgado building at Oak and Barres, a 100-year-old mixed-use building with no on-site parking and near a popular gym.

In the end, DeFoor requested that the City get more information about the parking patterns in the area to get a better feel for what impact the loss of parking might have.  

LeDew also fielded questions about speeding in the area. Several people asked about possibly dropping the speed limit through posted signs. LeDew explained that narrowed lanes might fix what posted speed limits cannot – narrower lanes give people unconscious cues to slow down, while posted speed signs need to be enforced.

“The speed limit is 30 miles an hour. That is the default speed limit in all residential areas,” he explained. “Right now, this project has no plans to lower the speed limit. The problem is not that 30 miles an hour is too fast, the problem is that peoples’ speeds are higher than 30 miles an hour. I would encourage stepped-up law enforcement. Also, if the neighborhood wants to (ask for) traffic calming, we have a program where that could be done by petition where the residents pay for part of that. If there is a demonstrated safety problem, if we could do research and show that there is a crash problem due to speeding, there is a possibility we could also implement some other traffic calming measures to lower the speed limit.”

By Jennifer Edwards
Resident Community News

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