A big piece of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s funding puzzle has been approved to help pay for another phase of JTA’s rapid transit plan.
A $16.9 million capital investment grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration will be used to help build out the First Coast Flyer’s East Corridor, also known as the Red Line.
Like other First Coast Flyer routes, the extension will provide faster and more frequent bus transit for commuters. This one will run from downtown to Jacksonville Beach.
The project has a total estimated cost of $33.9 million, with funding coming from a variety of sources.
The East Corridor, which will be the longest corridor in the First Coast Flyer network, will include transit signal priority at 32 intersections. The priority system holds green lights, allowing buses to move through intersections without stopping.
The Flyer extension will have 21 branded stations. The line will have fewer stops and offer 10-minute frequency during weekday peak hours and 15-minute frequency in weekday off peak hours.
"This added means of transportation between downtown and the beaches enhances our economic and cultural opportunities while improving safety and efficiency,” said Congressman John Rutherford, R-FL4, in a statement.
The Red Line will feature 19 buses running on compressed natural gas that include free Wi-Fi and mobile ticketing and is scheduled to launch in December.
“The First Coast Flyer initiative has already transformed travel in the Northeast Florida region with the Green and Blue Lines which were launched in December 2015 and December 2016 respectively,” said JTA Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel Ford in a statement.
The Red Line will run between the Rosa Parks Transit Station and Jacksonville Beach along the Arlington Expressway and Beach Boulevard with stops at major destinations, including Florida State College Jacksonville South.
The First Coast Flyer system is part of a larger overall modernization of JTA.
The JTA is also testing a variety of autonomous vehicles over the next two years with a goal of eventually replacing and expanding the existing Skyway system.
Construction is also underway for a new transit hub and JTA headquarters in LaVilla, across the street from the Prime Osborn Convention Center.
The first phase of that project – the new Greyhound bus terminal – is currently scheduled to open in early April.
The second phase is expected to be completed in early 2020.