A planned pedestrian and bike path would turn the Southbank Riverwalk into a continuous loop and tie it in with much of San Marco.
As part of the plan, city officials are requesting a railroad crossing in San Marco be closed to motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Closing the crossing at Naldo Avenue would create two dead ends for traffic on either side. It’s behind the San Marco Train Station development that includes the La Nopalera restaurant and Mayday ice cream shop.
City Councilwoman Lori Boyer said the requested closure would allow the planned loop to cross nearby Nira Street without putting pedestrians in harm’s way. She said that’s based on the recommendation of railroad engineers
“When the engineers got involved with the Department of Transportation, they came back and that’s when they said ‘for safety reasons we need to recommend the closure of the crossing, if you made a right turn on Naldo,” said Boyer. “Because it’s so close to the intersection of Nira.”
According to Boyer, the continuous Southbank loop will come off the Fuller Warren and weave over to the existing Southbank Riverwalk, which would be extended to to the The District, a planned housing and retail development on land next to the Duval County Public Schools headquarters.
The loop would come around Broadcast Place where WJXT is located, go under the Oberlin Bridge project and connect Nira Street before looping back to the river.
The project ties into the current $126 million expansion of the Fuller Warren Bridge that will add an additional lane in each direction along with a shared use path on the southbound side of the bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The bridge project is expected to be completed sometime in the summer of 2020.
Boyer said having more pedestrians and bicyclists on Nira, which is next to Naldo, creates a safety concern.
“I would be just as happy if they don’t close it as if they do, if they can still make the multi-use cross on Nira,” she said.
According to the city’s application, which WJCT News obtained from the Florida Department of Transportation, 584 vehicles cross the railroad daily. An estimated 210 pedestrians and bike riders use the crossing on a weekly basis.
Officials with the school district, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, and Fire Department say the closure would not negatively affect bus routes or access for emergency vehicles.
Boyer said the walkway would also be good for local businesses.
“I think they all benefit from having the kind of Riverwalk loop going down Nira, very close to those facilities because everybody will be looking for restaurant and retail use,” she said.
WJCT News reached out to V Pizza, located next to the railroad crossing, but the manager said she was not aware of the potential closure.
FDOT received the application to close Naldo Avenue in November and held a public meeting last week. Public comments will continue to be gathered through February 4.
Those interested in commenting can email FDOT’s Frieght and Rail Planner Robert Stapleton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WJCT’s Bill Bortzfield contributed to this report.