Jacksonville, FL — The removal of the Hart Bridge ramps in Downtown Jacksonville is now fully funded, and the Bay Street Innovation Corridor has gotten a big boost.
The City of Jacksonville and federal representatives confirm the Hart Bridge ramp project- formally known as Urban Core Riverfront Revitalization and Complete Streets- is among those that are getting money from the US Department of Transportation. The City was seeking just under $12.5 million from the federal government to cover one third of the needed funding, and we’re told that request was fulfilled. The City has already committed $12.5 million and the State has matched that amount as well, for a total project cost of just under $37.5 million.
Design on the project is already underway. Mayor Lenny Curry’s Chief of Staff Brian Hughes tells WOKV they anticipate construction to start in about 10 months or so, with completion of the project roughly 18 months after that- or around mid-2021.
The project has been a goal of this Administration, as part of their larger Downtown development plans in partnership with Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan. Khan says the project is an essential step in their push to revitalize the area- Khan is the master developer for the Shipyards site, and has a larger plan to bring new life to the Sports Complex overall.
Removing the ramps is seen as important from a development perspective because the ramps currently divert traffic over Bay Street and past the Sports Complex, therefore bringing traffic and customers past that area as well. The ramps also obstruct the view and connectivity from the Complex through to the St. Johns River.
WOKV did an in depth review of the grant application, which gave a more clear picture what Downtown could look like, after the ramp removal. The project includes more signals, widening Bay Street, some pedestrian improvements, and more. While the ramps over Bay Street would be taken down and the road brought down to street grade, the ramps would pick back up around A Philip Randolph and drop off where they do currently.
Closures would be needed as part of the construction, but there are no details for that at this point.
The City has also received $12.5 million for the Bay Street Innovation Corridor from the US DOT.
The Bay Street Innovation Corridor is expected to cost nearly $63 million, and JTA was seeking $25 million from the US DOT. It’s a three mile project that serves as the first phase of the Ultimate Urban Circulator Program, which will use the existing Skyway infrastructure, but with upgrades to feature autonomous vehicles and extensions that allow those to move seamlessly throughout the Circulator- essentially upgrading and expanding the Skyway services and routes.
“We can take the Skyway- which is now limited to 2 ½miles-and expand it in to a ten mile autonomous vehicle system that connects with the communities in and around Downtown, that the current Skyway does not reach,” says JTA CEO Nat Ford.
The Corridor- which will be the first phase of the Circulator- incorporate floor sensors, pedestrian sensors to help avoid collisions, autonomous vehicles, and other elements to enhance mobility and safety.
While JTA didn’t get all of the funding they had hoped for, Ford tells WOKV he is confident they will be able to line up what is needed, including through private funding. He says this project can serve as a national model, so they will be able to leverage that to secure private investments.
“On the cutting edge, in terms of transportation technology,” he says.
He believes the Corridor will be complete in around three years, with the overall Circulator project expected to take about seven years.