Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Council Members Oppose Hodges Overpass; Constituents Fear Negative Impact

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Council Members Oppose Hodges Overpass; Constituents Fear Negative Impact

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein, Times-Union staff writer

The Better Jacksonville Plan's proposed overpass at Atlantic and Hodges boulevards faces opposition from two City Council members who say an overpass would disrupt access to businesses and the Queen's Harbour subdivision.

Council members Jerry Holland and Lynette Self, whose districts border the intersection, said they instead favor building more traffic lanes at ground level.

"It's not a matter of doing an overpass or doing nothing," Holland said after reviewing an ongoing Jacksonville Transportation Authority study.

The opposition means the Atlantic-Hodges intersection will be the first test of whether City Council will eliminate any of the 12 overpasses listed in the Better Jacksonville Plan, which voters approved with a half-cent sales tax increase in 2000.

The JTA will make its engineering recommendation in May, setting the stage for the City Council to deliberate in the summer. The decision on Atlantic-Hodges will set a precedent for how the council treats other proposed overpasses that have sparked protests from residents and business owners near the planned intersections.

Dozens of people wore "No Overpass" buttons Thursday during a JTA meeting on the proposed Southside Boulevard overpass that would span Baymeadows Road and Old Baymeadows Road. Similar objections have dogged a proposed overpass at Atlantic and University boulevards.

The Better Jacksonville Plan contains $250 million to build 12 projects that were listed as "interchanges" -- the technical word for overpasses and elevated ramps. Most of those interchanges were just concepts with no drawings or designs when voters approved the Better Jacksonville Plan in 2000. As studies flesh out details, the Better Jacksonville Plan includes a provision that the City Council can change those projects if at least 13 of 19 council members agree there is "just cause" for the switch.

Mayor John Delaney, who remains a supporter of the overpasses, said the just-cause provision is for cases of "massive neighborhood disruption" and the objections don't reach that level. More than 60,000 vehicles a day travel the stretch of Atlantic Boulevard where an overpass would cross Hodges Boulevard. Delaney said traffic congestion at the intersection last week left him late for an event, the kind of frustrating delay the Better Jacksonville Plan is aimed at eliminating.

"I think it's essential we have an overpass there," Delaney said.

The Better Jacksonville Plan earmarks $20 million for the Atlantic-Hodges interchange. At a public meeting last Monday, the JTA estimated an overpass would cost $21 million, which includes buying right of way. The above-budget cost doesn't rule out an overpass, though, because the Better Jacksonville Plan contains contingency funds for transportation projects. …

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