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Jacksonville's Southbank Could Be Getting More Pedestrian Friendly

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Bicycle lanes, additional street parking and pedestrian walkways are being considered for Riverplace Boulevard, a stretch of State Road 13 between Hendricks Ave and Gulf Life Drive.
Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT New
Members of the Jacksonville community brainstorm ideas for Riverplace Boulevard renovations.

Big changes could be coming to the main thoroughfare on Jacksonville’s Southbank. City planners discussed the future of Riverplace Boulevard with the public at a meeting this week.

Street parking on Riverplace Boulevard is sparse, and a lack of pedestrian walkways makes crossing the five lanes of traffic on foot a lot like a game of Frogger.

Spero Krevatas had a dangerous experience walking to Thursday's community meeting.

"I just almost got hit by a car trying to cross from that side of the street to this side of the street to attend this meeting," Krevatas said. "They just don't stop."

He was at the Lexington Hotel to help brainstorm road changes.

Bob Warren says he's concerned about parking.

"It's a four-lane highway, so to speak, and the outside lane, you can park there," Warren said. "And that's really alarming to me because sometimes I'm driving on that street, and there's a car right in the right lane up against the curb. And I'm thinkin' I'm surprised somebody hasn't died yet."

City planner Pete Sechler says the problems on Riverplace are prevalent in other cities because the role of roads is changing.

"I think the fundamental thing that people are agreeing on is that we don't need to value streets by how many cars can we move as fast as possible."

  "Well I think the fundamental thing that people are agreeing on is that we don't need to value streets by how many cars can we move as fast as possible," Sechler said. "People are thinking of the street as something that's really there to serve their quality of life."

He says Riverplace Boulevard would better serve the community if it was walkable with better routes to access the river and restaurants. He says bicycle lanes and on-street parking could be added.

During the meeting attendees were asked to draw their ideal road plan. Cyclist Patrick O'Leary sketched a street with fewer traffic lanes.

"I did point out that bike lanes and parking lanes next to each other — I've had accidents when people swing their doors open," O'Leary said.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer represents the area. She says it's smart to collect public input before deciding on a plan. That way there's no redesigning necessary.

"That's when it really becomes expensive is when you have to change your mind at that point because there's a big community outcry," Boyer said.

Nick Mousa is with JBC Planning & Engineering, the company working on the Riverplace design project. He says after this meeting his team will come up with a few different road options.

The Riverplace Boulevard Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvement Project is fully funded through tax revenue from the Southbank district.

Construction on the road won't start for at least another year.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.