Thursday, Sept. 24, more than 100 people turned out for a community meeting hosted by the City of Jacksonville and the Downtown Investment Authority to kick off the design phase of Riverplace Boulevard reconstruction.
The reconstruction comes after much talk of improving pedestrian and vehicular traffic along the four-lane, two-way roadway that spans the entire length of Downtown’s Southbank.
During planning and community outreach on the First Coast Flyer (JTA’s bus-rapid transit system currently under construction), it became clear Riverplace Boulevard was wider than needed based on traffic volume. This, in turn, created hazardous travel conditions. This spurred a proposal, dubbed the Riverplace Boulevard “Road Diet,” which would remove some travel lanes while adding bicyclist and pedestrian lanes and features. This approach has proven successful in other cities in reducing traffic accidents and injuries, while maintaining efficient traffic flow and spurring economic investment.
Now fully funded, this “Road Diet” received much input at the Sept. 24 meeting on design plans, which are expected to be complete this fall. Engineering is then expected to take place throughout 2016 with construction to begin in 2017.
The meeting was structured in two parts. During the first half, consultants for this project – JBC Planning and Engineering and GAI Consultants – gave an overview which included historical context for Riverplace Boulevard. They noted the roadway contains remnants of different eras, from a 1920s working class neighborhood and industrial center to a 1960s single-use urban area centered on the automobile, and is now in the process of shifting to a more mixed-use residential corridor.
In the second half, consultants asked meeting attendees how they would divvy up the extra space if lanes were removed – approximately 100 feet of space. Typical width measurements of sidewalks, bike lanes, travel lanes and planting areas were provided for this exercise. Each table presented slightly different ways of improving Riverplace Boulevard, but there was consensus that the roadway should contain fewer lanes, bike lanes, additional parking and sidewalks buffered from the road with landscaped areas.
The project team will now consolidate feedback from participants and put together an initial concept plan that will be presented at a later date. Stay tuned for more information as this project progresses. The Sept. 24 meeting was the first step in the process to make a better Southbank. For more information on this project, contact Guy Parola, Downtown redevelopment manager for the DIA, at 904-630-3448 or firstname.lastname@example.org.