Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Schools to Stall Traffic

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Schools to Stall Traffic

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein, Times-Union staff writer

The countdown to a new school year is bringing back old memories of rush-hour backups on Kernan Boulevard.

The summertime driving lull will end citywide Wednesday when the new school year starts in Duval County. In the case of Kernan Boulevard, the traffic crunch will be more intense because two new schools -- Kernan Middle School and Kernan Trail Elementary School -- will be opening.

Kernan Boulevard already is one of the most heavily traveled two-lane roads in Jacksonville. Commuters say the addition of turn lanes at the Beach Boulevard intersection eased traffic jams on Kernan, but they expect the installation of a traffic light at the entrance to the new schools will slow them down again.

"It's a four-minute drive right now, but I anticipate it will be a 20-minute drive when the schools open," said Susan O'Brian, who commutes down Kernan Boulevard daily from home to work.

The Duval County School Board built the new schools to handle the swelling population in the East Arlington area, and the growth also has overloaded roads.

The Better Jacksonville Plan, which voters approved in 2000 with a half-cent sales tax hike, contains $12 million to widen Kernan Boulevard to four lanes. City Hall originally planned to start construction in 2005, but then moved up the project to 2004 because of rising traffic. The work will take two years.

Mayoral spokeswoman Sharon Ashton said construction can't start before 2004 because that would have an adverse "domino effect" on the city's ability to keep other Better Jacksonville Plan projects on schedule.

The opening of Don Brewer Elementary School in Arlington also faces traffic-related questions. Don Brewer Elementary is a block from Merrill Road Elementary, which is at Merrill Road and Hartsfield Road.

The city is racing the clock to finish building new turn lanes between Merrill and Hartsfield roads so it's easier for drivers to reach the schools. …

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