ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — A new commuter rail service could help get you from Jacksonville all the way to St. Augustine.
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s (JTA) Director of Economic Development, Richard Clark, presented a plan for the First Coast Commuter Rail to the City of St. Augustine City Commission two weeks ago, showing four stations that could link Jacksonville to St. Augustine. It is currently conducting a Transit-Oriented Development study to create a model for planning development.
“We have started the process,” he stressed during the meeting, adding, “It’s a 10-year undertaking. This is not quick. This is really serious stuff, this is hundreds of millions of investment, state and federal, and local, I mean, it’s real - real effort.”
There are four proposed rail stations at the following locations:
This would all help accommodate a growing population. According to the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, in Duval County, the population is expected to increase 41% by 2045. In St. Johns County, it’s expected to nearly double at 92% within the same time frame.
“It is unrecognizable from when I was a child,” said Barry Broudy, whose family owns at the corner of King Street and N Ponce De Leon Boulevard.
“This is one of the last, if not the last big parcel left,” Broudy said.
He explained his family took over the land in the 1950s and the liquor store there has been in place since the 1970s. Although he says there had been talks with the city about a potential commuter rail service, he says in recent years, JTA approached him with a concrete idea to turn the land into a rail station.
“I’m like ‘Oh my God, are you kidding?’” he said. “That would just be awesome for St. Augustine! It gets cars off the road,” he emphasized.
Citing U.S. Census Data, JTA explains there are nearly 54,000 drivers commuting back and forth between St. Johns and Duval Counties. Nearly 39,000 people live in St. Johns County and work in Duval County, while nearly 14,000 people live in Duval County, and work in St. Johns County.
For neighbors who fear they’d lose the local touch, “we will never leave this piece of property,” Broudy promised.
Right now, Broudy says he’s filed to obtain a new zoning district to allow for taller buildings, and more of them within his parcel of land, so he can be prepared for what will come next. That will still require approval from the city commission.
“My plan is to build out the infrastructure so when the train does come here, we’ll be ready for it,” he explained.
JTA has estimated the total capital costs are $395 million with annual operating costs of $25.1 million.