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Transportation hub grows into $127 million plan

By DAVID BAUERLEIN

The Times-Union

A plan to transform part of downtown Jacksonville's LaVilla neighborhood into a transportation hub for trains, buses and the Skyway has grown much more ambitious and expensive since officials presented a previous proposal in 2000.

The new "vision" for a Jacksonville Transportation Center would cost $127 million.

The state Department of Transportation is sending the proposal to local, state and federal agencies for their feedback. But as before, there is no construction funding for the project, which has been discussed since the early 1990s. The state hopes to get 70 percent of the cost financed by the federal government.

In 2000, the state Transportation Department estimated it would cost $56 million to move Amtrak and Greyhound to a transportation hub at the Prime Osborn Convention Center. After a June 2000 public hearing on that plan, further study has added more kinds of transportation to the proposed center, said DOT project manager Craig Teal.

There also would be a multi-story Jacksonville Transportation Authority bus terminal, a rapid transit station for either light rail or express buses, a Skyway station parking garage, and a traffic management center for high-tech monitoring of traffic conditions on major roads. The plan also identifies places for a future office building, a hotel, and residences.

"We just feel this is going to be a tremendous economic engine running in this area because of the multimodal center," JTA spokesman Mike Miller said.

City Council President Elaine Brown said making the plan a reality boils down to "money, money and more money."

She said it's part of the long-range solution to traffic gridlock and could fit in with an expanded convention center.

"What would you do as a conventioneer in an area like that right now?" she said. "But to have entertainment, a pedestrian walkway, a town center ... It could be one of the hottest areas in Jacksonville."

Because of the changes since 2000, DOT will need to conduct another public hearing on the proposal after getting more of the engineering design completed. Teal said the public hearing will probably occur around April 2006.

"We've taken a couple of steps back," Teal said. "It's no longer just Amtrak and Greyhound."

First Coast News reporter Melissa Ross contributed to this report.

david.bauerleinjacksonville.com, (904) 359-4581

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor..._18104281.shtml.

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They need to stop dilly dallying around these projects and get them done. Now is the perfect time to get this one going. Of course Tallahassee would rather spend $127 million on a new Miami parking garage first.

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We could probably pay for most of this ourselves, by using the money we're wasting to build overpasses at intersections all over the Southside. We could save a lot of money, by just constructing dual turns lanes, etc., at most of these spots. With that said, I don't see the Federal government contributing much for this in the upcoming decade.

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The sooner the better. Construction prices are far worse in 2-3 years. By then the Southside overpasses will have begun as well.

Dual turn lanes or single flyover lanes instead of full blown overpasses would be good.

Money saved goes to this Transportation hub and maybe some into funding a new Matthews bridge as well.

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Regarding the Transportation Center, I think this is a good idea in theory, but in reality, the types of people who use the train and especially the bus services are not exactly upscale. I dont know when the last time y'all visited the bus station was, but generally people who ride the bus are on their last economic legs and wont do anything to improve downtown. Train travel is a little more upscale (I took the train to NYC last yr and enjoyed it). I question the utility of including the bus service though - how many people actually come to town on a train and then get on a bus? Maybe 10 a day at most? I guess I am just concerned that this transportation center might get in the way of potential convention center business and this would not help anyone. By the way, who designed that bomb shelter meets parking garage meets New Mexico strip mall? Was it a color blind time traveler from the 1970s? How about a design that relates in some way to the old train station??

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For the record, however, I do support bringing train service back to the Prime Orborne in conjunction with expanding the existing convention center. I just think that this idea is a bridge too far. I also can never support the construction of something so ugly in such a prominent location.

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"who designed that bomb shelter meets parking garage meets New Mexico strip mall"

Design is BEFORE they captured Saddam Husein.

But my question is ,does 127 milion price tag include people in picture?

Somehow they alway make it look hot on picture ,once its build its empty and soulless.

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I'm hoping the design is a left over from 10 years ago, when they first came up with this deaign. I believe the most important thing about relocating the bus terminals, is to get those things off of the premium centralized sites, they now occupy. The information given so far, still seems a bit sketchy. How much and what type of retail will be included? What's the time line? How realistic is this?

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Well I just watched the video, which gives a little more insite to this project, which looks to be bounded by I-95, Bay, Johnson & Adams Streets. The hotel site is along Bay, closest to I-95. It definately could go back to the drawing board for a better facade. Councilman Reggie Fullwood thinks it will take about 3 years to secure funding and get construction started. Elaine Brown speaks of retail and entertainment with a town center concept, as being potentially the hottest spot around. I wonder how much retail are we talking about and what streets will it be facing? Are we talking about something like Cityplace in West Palm Beach?

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Riverside does have a point though. I don't think it will be supported by the right demographics. How is making a nice building going to imporve ridership on the skyway/buses/train. Until they start implimenting some sort of more expanded mass transportation like light rail that goes from the Airport to avenues. You need to have the destinations for you to have a hub, and right now, we dont have the right destinations to support wider ridership.

cheers

Josh

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Riverside does have a point though. I don't think it will be supported by the right demographics. How is making a nice building going to imporve ridership on the skyway/buses/train. Until they start implimenting some sort of more expanded mass transportation like light rail that goes from the Airport to avenues. You need to have the destinations for you to have a hub, and right now, we dont have the right destinations to support wider ridership.

cheers

Josh

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

They are buying $120 something million in right of way just for that. right now.

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The first BRT lines, from downtown to Gateway Mall and from downtown to University Blvd, are supposed to be operating by 2009. If construction of the terminal started in 2008, it probably wouldn't be completed until 2010 or 2011, which be around the same time be BRT line, from downtown to Wilson Blvd would be completed.

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Lakelander, can you link us to any info regarding the BRT, it's routes, phases and other info since they are relavent to this potential new hub?

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The first BRT lines, from downtown to Gateway Mall and from downtown to University Blvd, are supposed to be operating by 2009.  If construction of the terminal started in 2008, it probably wouldn't be completed until 2010 or 2011, which be around the same time be BRT line, from downtown to Wilson Blvd would be completed.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

they are messing up by only doing the westside route to Wilson Blvd.

There is no parking there, very little land along wilson blvd to even build a decent lot/hub center, unless they manage to buy that house at the corner of wilson/old middleburg.

While the westside from Wilson Blvd northwards will benefit, those along Blanding Blvd and US17 from 103rd south into Clay County will still suffer with horrendous traffic.

another shortsighted approach by the JTA. 3 cheers for the old fogies who don't know what they are doing.

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I'll have to scan the route map I have.

Imo, they're messing up by not establishing a trial commuter rail system first, before spending $100 million to build BRT. Its cheaper and quicker to try commuter rail. Another benefit, is that commuter rail runs on its own right-a-way and wouldn't have to stop at all the traffic lights. If it were me, these are some of the commuter rail lines I'd look to establish.

1. Downtown to St. Augustine (FEC tracks parallel Philips Hwy.)

- possible stops, from Prime Osborn, include San Marco, Emerson, University, Butler, Baymeadows, Avenues Mall, Bartram Springs, CR 210, World Golf Village, St. Augustine.

2. Downtown to Orange Park (CSX tracks parallel Roosevelt)

- possible stops, from Prime Osborn, include Forest Street, Edgewood Avenue (Avondale/Murray Hill), Blanding/Park (FCCJ), Roosevelt Mall, Ortega, NAS Jax, Orange Park.

3. Downtown to Westside (CSX tracks parallel Beaver)

- possible stops, from Prime Osborn, include McDuff, Edgewood, Lane, Calhoon and possibly Baldwin.

4. Downtown to Northside (CSX tracks parallel New Kings Hwy)

- possible stops, from Prime Osborn, include College Park/EWC, Grand Park, Edgewood, Soutel to Trout River Rd.

5. Downtown to Airport (CSX tracks through Durkeevill up US 17 North)

- possible stops, from Prime Osborn, include College Park/EWC, Ave. B, Moncrief, Norwood/Gateway Mall, Panama Park, Jax Zoo, Dunn Ave., New Berlin Road, Airport Road (JIA/River City Marketplace).

All you would have to do is lease the tracks, trains and build small stations. Try it for 3-5 years and if it doesn't work, terminate the lease, and sell the trains. If it does work, keep it and use the extra BRT money to establish lines from downtown to the Beaches and improve connector service in the Westside to the nearest commuter rail lines.

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The project sounds pretty cool but I am not sure that I am very fond of the design of the hub. It is sorely needed in Jacksonville but the area by the Prime Osborn is not exactly hopping. Maybe, in due time, downtown will extend out by the Prime Osborn instead of dying out half-way there.

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I'm with you, Lake. I think your plan is clearly the way to go. I believe that rail would be more heavily used than bus because of the continuing stigma in America (and certainly in Jax) to riding the bus. I also think that future developments could be built (as they have been in other cities) around rail to utilize the rail network. Why aren't we in charge?

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Again, I say, Lakelander should be in office. Send your ideas in!

IMO, the hotel should NOT be located near I-95. On the contrary, it should be on the eastern side of the project, closest to the convention center and the urban fabric of downtown.

Also, if this becomes the new JTA bus terminal, what will become of the FCCJ station? I'm sure some buses would still pass through there, but wouldn't there be alot of empty bus spaces?

It's great to see some new downtown news. Lately, we've only been hearing about the Superbowl, but now we're reading about Riverpointe, those two new DDA approved things, and now this! Awesome!

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I don't know what that's for. I used to live in Argyle/Orange Park and commute to Darnell Cookman Middle School on 8th Street. What a drive that was..... But I can't really vote in this survey, I don't know all the mileage and stuff.

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It looks to me like the paper is trying to get some people to interview for an upcoming article. By the way, I live in Riverside, 0-5 miles away and get to work downtown in less than 10 minutes almost every day.

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It looks to me like the paper is trying to get some people to interview for an upcoming article.  By the way, I live in Riverside, 0-5 miles away and get to work downtown in less than 10 minutes almost every day.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

do you have kids?

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Many people, myself for one, choose to live in other counties because of the public schools. I know myself I cannot afford to send my son to a private school or I would be living in or close to downtown.

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Perhaps this is related to that survey?...................

JTA says: Gas prices too high? Ride a bus

By DAVID BAUERLEIN, The Times-Union

The soaring price of gas has given the Jacksonville Transportation Authority a chance to make inroads on gaining bus ridership.

Since gas poked above the $2 per gallon mark more than a year ago, JTA's ridership has grown at a rate of 5 percent per month, according to the agency.

There are no studies showing what amount of the ridership gains are a result of people looking for ways to save money at the pump, JTA spokesman Mike Miller said.

Click Here for the rest of the article

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