Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Quality of Life or Lives? Neighborhoods at Odds on Road

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Quality of Life or Lives? Neighborhoods at Odds on Road

Article excerpt

Constructing the Wonderwood connector could devastate property

values and quality of life for residents of East Arlington whose

neighborhoods fall in its path.

Shelving it for another decade could strand tens of thousands

of people who need to evacuate the Beaches in an emergency.

Last night, City Council members heard the first of what could

be a series of emotional arguments on the wisdom of spending

$110 million for a fourth artery to the Beaches.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority has included $39

million for the first section of the 8.7-mile Wonderwood

connector in a $105 million bond program for countywide road

improvements. Council approval is required.

With some exceptions, the project has pitted people who live or

work at the Beaches, and who want traffic eased on Atlantic

Boulevard, against people who live in East Arlington, a

fast-growing suburban area that will be sliced in half by the

artery.

About 100 people attended an initial public hearing yesterday.

"We're talking about life or death at the Beaches," said

Jacksonville Beach City Councilman Ed Parpart. "A year ago, when

we had a hurricane scare, you couldn't get out of the Beaches."

Jacksonville Beach Mayor Bill Latham went further, describing

the conflict as an issue of maintaining quality of life for

Arlington or risking the loss of many lives at the Beaches.

"If we have a Category 4 hurricane, we're not talking about

losing quality of life," he said. ". . . Talking about the

quality of life in Arlington should not even be a

consideration."

Making it a consideration has fallen chiefly to Councilman Jim

Tullis, a former council president whose district includes East

Arlington.

Adamantly opposed, he is one of two council members who will

review the Wonderwood request this month as a subcommittee of

the Finance Committee. Councilwoman Denise Lee of Northwest

Jacksonville is the second member.

Tullis wants the transportation authority to address congestion

on the four-lane Mathews Bridge first. …

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