Bike/Ped Advocates Desire Change For Jax's Future

September 16, 2014 4 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The deadline for providing final comments and suggestions for roadway, bicycle, pedestrian, and transit projects that will be built in Northeast Florida over the next 30 years is quickly approaching. Unfortunately, there's a growing fear that bicycle and pedestrian projects may once again end up getting the short end of the stick. For those who desire safe connected sidewalks, cycle tracks, shared use paths, and other bicycle and pedestrian enhancements along our deadly roadways, the opportunity to tilt mobility decisions in your favor presents itself in the form of Path Forward 2040 public meetings scheduled this week.

Federal regulations require all metropolitan planning organizations to prepare a Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) that addresses multi-modal transportation needs over at least a 20-year horizon. The plan for Northeast Florida (Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns Counties) must be updated every three to five years. Projects included in the adopted Cost Feasible Plan must have funding identified. To be considered for the Cost Feasible Plan, a project must first be on the Needs Plan list.

The way the LRTP works, a Needs Plan is initially created, based on the community's understanding of what's needed to meet future demand for travel in the region. Required by federal legislation, the Cost Feasible Plan is then created to identify projects from the Needs Plan that are financially feasible, provide the greatest return on investment, and are consistent with local policies, goals, and objectives. Projects not included in the Cost Feasible Plan are not eligible for federal funding between now and 2040.

The recently released draft Cost Feasible Plan includes $7.8 billion worth of multimodal transportation projects proposed for Northeast Florida. Sixty million dollars in the draft Cost Feasible Plan appears to have been set aside for bicycle and pedestrian projects. It's also assumed that all non-limited access highway projects will include bike lanes and sidewalks as well. Nearly fifty-six million dollars were set aside for bicycle and pedestrian projects in the previous LRTP.

Nevertheless, local bicycle and pedestrian advocates are concerned they may be getting the short end of the stick. After the first round of public meetings in April 2014, a Needs Plan was finalized that included several bicycle and pedestrian projects that were to be scored and ranked, so that a prioritized list of these projects could be included in the draft Cost Feasible Plan.


While roadway projects are identified in the draft Cost Feasible Plan, it appears there are no plans to identify and prioritize needed bicycle and pedestrian projects through 2040, causing heartburn for bike/ped advocates.

When the LRTP's Steering Committee met on August 6th to review potential projects, they were all told that the list of bicycle and pedestrian projects would be ready for their next meeting on August 27th. When the August 27th Steering Committee meeting arrived, committee members were informed that there would be no prioritized list of bicycle and pedestrian projects. Instead a certain amount of funds would be set aside for bicycle and pedestrian projects, and projects would be identified and carried out at an undetermined future date. In a city that Smart Growth America recently identified as the third most dangerous city in the country for pedestrians, this solution may not be enough. To change things, they'll need to attend LRTP public meetings or provide public comment before the Cost Feasible Plan is finalized.

Luckily, they won't have to wait too long. In an effort to solicit public comments and suggestions before finalizing the 2040 Cost Feasible Plan, the North Florida TPO has scheduled a series of public meetings throughout the region this week. The first will be held Tuesday, September 16 in downtown Jacksonville at the Main Public Library. Four additional meetings will be held in at the beach and in Clay, Nassau, and St. Johns Counties between September 17th and 23rd. If you would like to provide your input but can't attend meetings in person, you can also share your comments and suggestions for the Path Forward 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan at info@pathforward2040.com.

Upcoming Path Forward 2040 Public Meeting Schedule

09.16.14
Path Forward 2040 Public Meeting - Duval County

5 - 7 PM, Jacksonville Main Library, 303 North Laura Street

09.17.14
Path Forward 2040 Public Meeting - Clay County

5 - 7 PM, Fleming Island HS Teacher Training Center, 2233 Village Square Parkway

09.18.14
Path Forward 2040 Public Meeting - Nassau County

5-7 PM, American Beach Community Center, 1600 Julia Street

09.22.14
Path Forward 2040 Public Meeting - St. Johns County

5 -7 PM, Bartram Trail Library, 60 Davis Pond Boulevard

09.23.14
Path Forward 2040 Public Meeting - Beaches

5 - 7 PM, Jacksonville Beach City Hall, 11 3rd Street North


2040 Long Range Transportation Plan Draft Cost Feasible Plan


 
 

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Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com