Jacksonvlle’s Bid For Federal Hart Bridge Ramp Demolition Money Fails

Jun 21, 2018

In a blow to plans for a huge development at Metropolitan Park and The Shipyards, the federal transportation department passed over Jacksonville’s request for a $25 million grant to take down part of the Hart Bridge’s elevated ramp and build new connections for motorists.

The city got nothing from the $1.5 billion in grants announced this month for the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program, according to our Florida Times-Union news partner.

But Mayor Lenny Curry’s office told the Times-Union even without the federal grant, the $50 million project could still move forward by demolishing the elevated ramps and doing construction in phases.

The first phase would be paid for by using $25 million from the state and the city, said city spokeswoman Tia Ford.

“The status of the Talleyrand Connector project is unchanged,” Ford said, referring to the name city officials have used for the project.

It’s not clear how doing the work in phases would affect the thousands of motorists who use the elevated road daily while driving between the Hart Bridge and downtown. Curry’s office has not given any details in response to questions about what work would be done in the first phase and what would remain undone until the rest of the money is nailed down.

Curry lobbied for federal help for removing a section of the Hart Bridge elevated ramp that runs through the area of downtown where Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan put forward his vision in April for a $2.5 billion development.

The new development would occur on Lot J, which is near the football stadium, and also at Metropolitan Park and vacant land known as The Shipyards. The Jaguars have said that taking down the Hart Bridge ramps would enable the full build-out of Khan’s vision on Met Park and The Shipyards.

Ford said demolishing the elevated ramp and completing the “first phase of the associated components in the project” can be covered by using $12.5 million already committed by the state along with $12.5 million from the city.

She said as the project “continues to move forward,” the city will identify the timeline and funding sources for later phases.

As proposed by city officials, the project would demolish about three-fourths of a mile of the elevated road where it runs past the sports complex. The city would leave intact the remainder of the elevated ramp system that runs from Bay Street and arches into downtown.

The proposals call for building a new ramp between the bridge and Bay Street — also known as Gator Bowl Boulevard — so motorists coming from the Hart Bridge toward downtown still could take that route, albeit at ground level.

The proposal also would build a second connection from Bay Street to the remaining Hart Bridge ramp system in the vicinity of A. Phillip Randolph Boulevard. That connection would give drivers a choice of either continuing into downtown at street level via Bay Street, or taking the future ramp connecting to the rest of the elevated roads into downtown.

A longer version of this story with additional background on trying to fund the project is on jacksonville.com