Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Keystone Tunnel Draws Opposition; but the Plan Is in Final Approval Stages; It Will Allow Easier Access to a Walgreens

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Keystone Tunnel Draws Opposition; but the Plan Is in Final Approval Stages; It Will Allow Easier Access to a Walgreens

Article excerpt

Byline: ANNE SPONHOLTZ

A controversial tunnel, planned to allow easier access for a Walgreens drug store under construction, received a nod from the city council and has moved into the final approval stages.

Developers for the new drug store said the tunnel had been stalled because of lack of action from the city. However, that changed the end of July when the council voted 3-2 to move forward with the process.

There has been growing opposition to the tunnel since it was first introduced a year ago. Petitions opposing the tunnel have reached city hall and residents have spoken out against the tunnel at council meetings.

The tunnel is designed to detour pedestrian and bicycle traffic through the tunnel along a stretch of the Rails-to-Trails. Vehicles would cross above the tunnel and directly into and out of the store's parking lot. The trail follows an abandoned railroad track, which runs along Florida 100, and one day will stretch from Palatka to Lake Butler.

Rick Bebout, a longtime advocate of the Rails-to-Trails, has joined others who expressed concerns that the tunnel could become a haven for youth and others to engage in bad behavior.

Tunnel opponents listed concerns such as graffiti becoming a constant problem, skateboarders being enticed to use the slopes leading into and out of the tunnel and endangering pedestrians, possible criminal activity against individuals walking through the tunnel and added congestion at the Florida 100 and Florida 21 intersection. Mayor Lyndel Hale said he shares those concerns.

Councilwoman Michelle Curtis, Bebout's daughter, also opposes the tunnel. Curtis and Bebout are concerned that if the Walgreens store gets the green light for the tunnel, other businesses wanting access across the trail would make similar requests, resulting in degradation of the trail. …

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