Why Kings Road is ready for a road diet

Published August 28, 2015 in Transportation - MetroJacksonville.com

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is proposing to resurface Kings Road in the summer of 2016. This resurfacing project allows the FDOT to revisit the striping of the roadway. Currently the road is striped as a four-lane roadway with no bike lanes or center turn lane.

FDOT is evaluating the following different concepts for the portion of the corridor from Tyler Street to Martha Street.

1) Leaving the corridor as is (resurfacing the corridor and leaving the striping as four lanes with no turn lane or bike lanes).

2) Leaving the corridor striped as is but adding protected green arrow phases to existing signalized intersections with high left turn volumes.

3) Reducing the road to one travel lane in each direction and adding a dedicated turn lane and 5 foot paved bike lanes.

See proposed concept renderings HERE,.

Here's four reasons why reducing the road to one travel lane in each direction should be the preferred concept.

1. Pedestrian Safety

According to Smart Growth America, Jacksonville ranks as the third worst city in the country for pedestrians. With a population density of nearly 6,000 residents per square mile, the neighborhood Kings Road severs is one of Jacksonville's densest. In addition, Kings Road literally splits a college campus in half. It is proven that three lane roadways are easier to cross than four lanes undivided roadways.Given Jacksonville's abysmal pedestrian safety track record and the surrounding urban environment, it should not even be a debate on if the option that best enhances safety for all modes of mobility should be selected. If we're interested in saving lives, implement the concept that reduces pedestrian accidents.

2. Auto Crash Reductions

Kings Road through the campus of Edward Waters College

Four-lane undivided roadways are antiquated roadway designs from an era that has long passed us by. A road diet creates the opportunities to add dedicated turn lanes and protected left turn signals at intersections. Turn lanes reduce rear end crashes and left turn signal phases reduce right angle automobile crashes. In fact, according to CityLab.com, a 2013 study of 4-lane to 3-lane diets found major safety benefits: a 47 percent drop in crashes in small metros, and a 19 percent dip in big cities.

Kings Road just east of Edward Waters College

3. Better for Transit

Some mistakenly believe that road diets make it more difficult to pass slow or stopped buses, causing automobile traffic to clog up. This only happens if our roadway engineers refuse to embrace innovation. Kings Road isn't the only narrow, four-lane undivided roadway that has been considered for a road diet in Florida. Tampa's Nebraska Avenue is the same width as Kings Road. In 2008, FDOT District 7 coordinated with Atkins, a consulting firm, to design a road diet that features pedestrian refuges, sidewalk enhancements and bike lanes. In addition to these common road diet features, the corridor was also designed to accommodate a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and BRT stations. The redesign also allows through traffic to pass stopped buses. According to Project for Public Spaces bike crashes were reduced from 5.0 to 2.7 a year, while pedestrian crashes dropped from 7.0 to 2.7 per year. Now an improved corridor for cyclist and pedestrians, transit ridership has nearly doubled since the road diet was implemented.

See more photographs of Nebraska Avenue's BRT corridor HERE

4. Balanced Roadways Create Better Economic Opportunities

Edgewater Drive in Orlando after it was reduced from 4 to 3 lanes.

2015 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Interstate Highway System. Since the first interstate highway opened, many have developed a faulty theory that economic opportunity increases with the number of lanes a roadway has. Perhaps that had some validity in the 20th century as neighborhoods like Durkeeville declined in population as residents left in droves for economic opportunity in the suburbs. However, Kings Road has been four lanes for decades and it certainly isn't booming with economic opportunity. On the other hand, two similar roadways, one in Orlando and another in Jacksonville, have come back to life after their road diets.

In 2001, the City of Orlando coordinated with FDOT District 5 to take Edgewater Drive from 4 to 3 lanes in the College Park neighborhood. A year later, a City of Orlando Before & After Evaluation concluded that crash rates went down, while pedestrian and bicycle volumes increased. However, the best was yet to come. After the road diet, Edgewater Avenue's struggling commercial corridor transformed itself into a bonefide pedestrian friendly retail and dining district. Closer to home, San Marco's Hendricks Avenue has added several restaurants, specialty shops, banks and a craft brewery since its early 2000s road diet was completed.

High Tide Burrito is one of several businesses to open on Hendricks Avenue since it was reduced from 4 to 3 lanes.

Still not a believer in the effectiveness of road diets on streets with obsolete four-lane undivided configurations like Kings Road? Here's a video by author Jeff Speck and 3D artist Spencer Boomhower that describes how some of the most common and most effective road-diet redesigns work.

Jeff Speck: Four Road Diets from Cupola Media on Vimeo.

To encourage FDOT District 2 to do the right thing and make Kings Road a safer corridor for all residents, take a few seconds to leave your comments HERE

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

This article can be found at: https://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2015-aug-why-kings-road-is-ready-for-a-road-diet

Metro Jacksonville

Copyright MetroJacksonville.com