Fast Bus, Rail Line in Study Plan Would Link Beaches, Town

Article excerpt

Byline: Christopher F. Aguilar, Times-Union staff writer

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority, which is already looking into the feasibility of commuter service between the airport and Mandarin, now plans to study whether it should add express bus or light rail service between the Beaches and downtown in the next decade.

The 18-month study, which the JTA is scheduled to begin in January, will explore offering a rapid transit system from the Beaches to Orange Park with a stop in downtown Jacksonville.

The four roads being looked at as possible paths for a rapid transit system are Atlantic Boulevard, Beach Boulevard, Butler Boulevard and the Wonderwood Connector.

"This is a very comprehensive study," said Ed Castellani, manager of the JTA's Rapid Transit Project.

Castellani said the East Southwest Multimodal Corridor study will include an alternative analysis, an environmental impact study and a look at the number of people who could use the transit system.

"We will also have a citizen advisory committee that will discuss ideas and handle residents' issues," he said. "There will be quite a lot of public involvement."

A rapid transit system is composed of light rail in combination with bus rapid transit. Light rail has a train that runs on a track, while bus rapid transit has a bus that travels in its own lane.

Castellani said that until the study goes to bid, he will not know how much the study will cost.

The First Coast Metropolitan Planning Organization, an agency that reviews transportation issues and offers guidance into where government money should be allocated for transportation projects, shows in its Jacksonville Urbanized Area Transportation Study that a rapid transit system from the Beaches to Orange Park would cost $1.013 billion.

The same transportation study shows that a bus rapid transit system that would run from the Mayport area to Ponte Vedra Beach area would cost $238 million.

The JTA is already studying the feasibility of such a system from Jacksonville International Airport to Mandarin.

Atlantic Beach Mayor John Meserve, who represents the Beaches on the Metropolitan Planning Organization, said a Beaches corridor for mass transit would not be a logical choice. …

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