Fuller Warren Bridge expansion raising community concerns

From CBS 47 / Fox 30 Action News: 

A $120 million project to upgrade the city's newest bridge is raising red flags.  The Florida Department of Transportation announced plans to widen the Fuller Warren Bridge, which opened to traffic in 2000.

"It's going to be heavily scrutinized, and you guys are going to have to be able to answer those questions," said City Councilman Robin Lumb to an FDOT representative Thursday.

The proposed growth in Jacksonville comes with fear from the community.

"There really doesn't seem like there's a lot of planning behind it. It seems like they found this money, so they created a project that's not part of the long-range plan," said Carmen Godwin, executive director of Riverside Avondale Preservation.

She's very concerned about the future of the Riverside Arts Market. The location is in the new project's right-of-way.

"There's a $4 million economic impact. You have hundreds of venders who --this is their storefront. This is their livelihood," she said.

James Bennett, with FDOT, addressed concerns Thursday afternoon with city leaders and said he hopes to find a way for the bridge expansion and the Riverside Arts Market to co-exist.

"Certainly not saying today that there's not going to be some impact to some folks. There will be some impacts along the way," said Bennett.

The bike community also wants access from Riverside to San Marco. Council member Don Redman said bike lanes should be added, if construction's happening anyway.

Bennett said that's nearly impossible.

"This is an interstate. There is not going to be sidewalks or bike paths put across this bridge on an interstate," Bennett said.

FDOT will be setting up a website for this project -- and it's looking at Feb. 10 for a kickoff meeting to allow the public to express concerns. FDOT leaders said they will take public input into account.

FDOT anticipates the planning process will take about a year before final plans are firmed up.

Construction is slated to begin fall of 2016.

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