Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

High Tech Traffic Flow Urged; System Would Replace Plan for Overpasses

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

High Tech Traffic Flow Urged; System Would Replace Plan for Overpasses

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein, Times-Union staff writer

The chairman of Jacksonville City Council's transportation committee will push to build an Intelligent Transportation System instead of overpasses on several heavily traveled roads.

The Better Jacksonville Plan, which voters approved in 2000 with a half-cent sales tax increase, contains $251 million for construction of 12 overpasses.

City Councilman Lake Ray said perhaps half of the overpasses could be eliminated and the money spent instead on an Intelligent Transportation System.

In such a system, a central traffic control center is linked to roadside cameras, message boards and computerized traffic signals. Operators in the control center watch video screens for accidents and dispatch emergency authorities so wrecks are cleared from the road more quickly.

Operators also can transmit messages to the electronic signs, alerting drivers of unusual traffic congestion so they can take an alternate route.

Shifting money from overpasses to an Intelligent Transportation System would require a "super-majority" vote by at least 13 of 19 council members.

"I have a great concern when we're looking at making such substantial changes to the plan," said Ron Salem, chairman of the Better Jacksonville Plan Citizen Oversight Committee. "I don't believe that was the kind of change that we envisioned when the plan was passed."

Salem said the list of Better Jacksonville Plan projects, including the overpasses, was a "covenant between the citizens and the government" and should only be altered in extraordinary circumstances, such as a hurricane or other natural disaster.

The state Department of Transportation already uses Intelligent Transportation System technology in Jacksonville, but only on Interstate 10 and Interstate 95.

In December, Ray raised the possibility of using Intelligent Transportation System technology on other roads besides the interstate highways.

After a consultant made a report last week to the First Coast Metropolitan Planning Organization on the potential for using the technology on Atlantic Boulevard and the Arlington Expressway, Ray said he is "absolutely" convinced it's a better way to go than overpasses in some cases. …

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