As reflected in some of our prior blogs, Jacksonville has some of the least pedestrian and bicycle friendly roadways in the nation and few of them are as deadly as the Arlington Expressway.
Recently, it has been announced that there are plans to make the Arlington Expressway safer for pedestrians and cyclists. If the improvement happens, it won’t come a moment too soon. The expressway was built in 1953 and is vital to linking downtown with Arlington and the Jacksonville Beaches.
More than half a century ago, urban planners focused little towards pedestrians, and roadways were designed primarily with the interests of motorists in mind. That lack of vision has led the expressway to become a very concerning danger in recent years. One of the main problems is that pedestrians have very few access points to safely cross the expressway.
From May 2010 to May 2015, as many as 100 car accidents per year were reported on the expressway, including three fatalities. During those five years, no fewer than 14 pedestrians were hit, including 10 on service roads for the expressway.
“I would sit here when I’m walking around patrolling, and I watch people with toddlers or whatever crawl between the fence and the pole and dodge traffic to get across,” Bucky Carver, who lives and works near the expressway. The road is so hazardous that officials have sought ways of keeping pedestrians away from part of the expressway that runs from University Boulevard down to Mill Creek Road, the area near the Regency Square Mall. Fences have proven to be of marginal benefit.
However, a preliminary study by the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization suggests an alternative plan that would entail a redesign of the expressway in which new bike lanes, sidewalks and other pedestrian friendly areas would be created on both sides of the highway.
The corridor study provides that Jacksonville’s first suburban freeway fails to meet today’s engineering standards as sidewalks are limited and there are few crosswalks. Moreover, the expressway divides communities and people want to be able to cross between them. The existence of as many as 65 vacant or under-utilized parcels of land gives space for features that could make the road safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.
The plan illustrates alternatives. Alternative 1 calls for a six-lane highway with a 7-foot bike lane and an 8-foot sidewalk behind trees. Alternative 2 provides for three 12-foot traffic lanes and a 7-foot bike lane with sidewalks along the edge.
The regeneration of the area around the highway presents a number of distinct issues. One of them is the large number of boarded-up buildings where businesses have failed. The expressway splits the area in two, and some planner think a new expressway would bring both sides together and would make businesses more profitable.
It would cost about $50 million to implement the changes referenced in the report, and it would take state and city approval before the construction can begin. Officials are yet to identify a funding source, but the study said improving the area could have a $178 million positive impact on local commerce.
Jacksonville is not a pedestrian or bicycle friendly city. In 2010, about 200 bicyclists or pedestrians were injured in motor vehicle accidents. This makes our city the third-most dangerous city in the United States for bicyclists and pedestrians. Arlington Expressway is typical of a roadway that lacks designated bike lanes and pedestrian features. Often bicyclists must ride on a sidewalk, which can lead to accidents. Many sidewalks are uneven or nonexistent and do not have curb cuts allowing for safe access on and off the sidewalk at intersections. Continue reading