Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Landscaped Berms Urged for Southside Widening; Two Council Members See Beautification, Shielding Benefits in Proposal

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Landscaped Berms Urged for Southside Widening; Two Council Members See Beautification, Shielding Benefits in Proposal

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein, The Times-Union

When the state Department of Transportation widens Southside Boulevard in Jacksonville, two City Council members want the construction to roll back the clock.

Back to a time when neighborhoods on both sides of Southside Boulevard didn't live with the constant noise of traffic in their yards.

Back to an era when residents didn't look in the direction of the road and see one of the city's busiest traffic mainlines.

To accomplish that, Councilwomen Suzanne Jenkins and Lynette Self are asking the state to build tall, landscaped berms on both sides of Southside Boulevard between Atlantic and Beach boulevards. The walls of landscaped mounds would shield the neighborhoods from the sights and sounds of Southside Boulevard.

But to make room for the berms, the state transportation department would have to purchase homes and businesses, said Ryan Solis-Rios, project manager for the state. He said the state has not determined how many would be affected, but there are dozens of houses and businesses in that part of Southside Boulevard.

And a buyout for the berms would add millions of dollars to the project's costs, Solis-Rios said.

"It would be very unusual to do something like this," he said. "The right of way usually gets too expensive to do it."

The cost alone should be enough to quash the proposal, said Chris Likins, whose home faces Southside Boulevard.

"If DOT has that kind of money, they should be spending the money repairing all the potholes in Jacksonville," Likins said.

Solis-Rios emphasized that the state has made no decision. The transportation department is doing a planning study which compares different options for widening Southside Boulevard. He said one option will stay within the existing right of way by adding two more lanes but no landscaped berms. The state also will analyze the cost of expanding the right of way by buying property on the west side of the boulevard, and another option by buying land on the east side.

He said it will take two years to complete the study and choose a plan. The state does not have funding or a timeline for proceeding on designs, right of way acquisition and construction. …

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