Here are five reasons why Monroe Street should not be reconstructed in front of the new Duval County Courthouse.
1. Impractical Alignment
An illustration of Monroe looping in front of the courthouse, if constructed.
The footprint of the Duval County Courthouse would force a reconstructed Monroe Street to be within spitting distance of Adams Street.
2. Two-way Streets
Laura Street is one of many long time one-way streets being converted into two-way facilities. The two-way conversions alone will have a significant positive impact on the connectivity and accessibility of downtown.
It's obvious that the three year closure of Monroe, during the construction of the courthouse, has not had a significant impact on vehicular traffic through downtown. In addition to this fact, the JEDC is now looking into converting Adams, Pearl, Julia and Monroe, east of the courthouse site, into two-way roads. Converting the majority of adjacent one-way streets into two-way facilities around the courthouse will more than make up for the loss of two blocks of Monroe.
3. Expensive Expenditure
Roads aren't cheap. The 4-block Laura Street streetscape is a $2.7 million project. Currently unbudgeted, the reconstruction of Monroe from scratch, as a two-block half circle, will cost taxpayers a pretty penny.
According to FDOT Roadway construction cost estimates, the new construction of an urban 2-lane road with 5' sidewalks, curb and gutters tends to average around $12 million/mile. This means reconstructing this 0.15 mile stretch of Monroe Street could cost taxpayers as much as $1.8 million.
4. Pedestrian Friendly Atmosphere
For those worried about maintaining a grid, it is possible to do so without making cars the ultimate priority. Why not focus on integrating the courthouse with existing empty retail spaces on Adams Street to really make a vibrant scene that accommodates multiple modes of transportation?
If you want a lesson on how to self-destruct and destroy a vibrant downtown, a visit to the Northbank is a must. For the last 50 years, we've designed downtown for the automobile and look at where it has gotten us. Rebuilding this small stretch of Monroe Street does nothing to enhance the pedestrian environment. This reason alone should be enough to invest that potential $1.8 million in something else.
5. Develop Courthouse Green
St. Louis' CityGarden: Instead of spending millions for automobile accommodation, spend it creating a space that is uniquely designed for downtown's residents, businesses, visitors and pedestrians.
The proposed greenspace in front of the courthouse may be the most overlooked and ignored Duval County Courthouse related public amenity. The Northbank and LaVilla would be better off with a well planned greenspace with amenities, as opposed to two more blocks of asphalt catering to our driving addiction. Instead of reconstructing Monroe Street, take that money and invest it a public space that all residents can enjoy.
Nashville Courthouse's Public Square: Instead of staying hooked on asphalt, copy a vibrant peer city's model of designing downtown for pedestrian enjoyment.
Editorial by Ennis Davis