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JTA Selects Designer For Bay Street Corridor As Part Of U2C Skyway Replacement

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North Florida TPO
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This rendering illustrates an autonomous U2C vehicle traveling on Bay Street with the various symbols reflecting the connectivity of a smart city infrastructure.

Plans to replace and expand Jacksonville’s Skyway system are taking another step forward.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority announced Thursday it has selected the firm Balfour Beatty to roll out what's called the Bay Street Innovation Corridor. JTA's board still needs to approve the final contract.

The corridor is part of JTA's plan to replace and expand the Skyway’s monorail cars with autonomous electric vehicles. The overall project is collectively being called the Ultimate Urban Circulator, or U2C. The existing monorail cars will eventually be retired.

The U2C includes the Bay Street Innovation Corridor, the full conversion of the Skyway superstructure, and an expansion into nearby neighborhoods. When completed, the system will expand the current Skyway from a 2.5-mile system to the 10-mile U2C, levering autonomous vehicle technologies.

“This award represents a major milestone for the U2C, the JTA and Downtown Jacksonville,” said JTA CEO Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. in an email to WJCT News. “We are confident the Balfour Beatty team and its partners will deliver a world-class project on behalf of the taxpayers of Jacksonville, placing our community at the forefront of innovation.”

Pending contract approval, Balfour Beatty and its partners will oversee 60% of the design of the corridor, a 3-mile, at-grade service along Bay Street that will run from Hogan Street to the Sports & Entertainment District, near TIAA Bank Field, 121 Financial  Field and the VyStar Veterans Memorial Area.

JTA said the approximately $44 million project is fully funded and supported by local, in-kind, state and federal funds, including the $12.5 million BUILD grant awarded to the JTA in 2019. 

A significant portion of the funding will also come from the 6-cent gas tax that the Jacksonville City Council approved in May. The tax, which will double the current rate, goes into effect next year and is expected to raise about $1 billion for a variety of city infrastructure projects. The U2C is expected to receive about $246 million from the  gas tax.

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Credit North Florida TPO
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The Bay Jax Innovation Corridor logo.

The U2C is expected to be the centerpiece of a technological "smart city" initiative that is being marketed on a wider multi-agency scale as the BayJax Innovation Corridor, which is visualized to include everything from advanced traffic management to potentially even solar sidewalks to help power the  technology that will be built along Bay Street.

Other vendors scheduled to help build out and get the U2C project going include Superior Construction Company Southeast, Beep, Inc., WGI, Inc., Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. and Miller Electric.

Correction: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect gas tax revenue estimate.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Bill joined WJCT News in September of 2017 from The Florida Times-Union, where he served in a variety of multimedia journalism positions.