Some San Marco residents and business owners are against the City of Jacksonville’s proposed closure of a railroad crossing next to a busy area that includes multiple restaurants.
The change would close the railroad crossing at Naldo Avenue, effectively creating two dead ends for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists on either side.
It’s part of a planned pedestrian and bike path from Riverside to San Marco.
Nicole Ash is a San Marco resident whose family developed the retail center that includes La Nopalera and Mayday Ice Cream. She said she’s been going to door-to-door to organize neighbors who are against the closure.
“This crossing has been a really important artery to the San Marco area for many years,” she said. “And now with the additional development that’s going on and the new residents and just the influx of people here, it’s more important than ever.”
City Councilwoman Lori Boyer said the requested closure would allow the planned Riverwalk pedestrian and bike loop, which would tie in much of San Marco, to cross nearby Nira Street without putting pedestrians in harm’s way.
Boyer said railroad engineers recommended closing the crossing for safety reasons.
Boyer said the move to close the crossing wasn’t an original part of the project. “That’s part of the engineering design they’re recommending,” she said. “I would be just as happy if they don’t close it as if they do close it, if they can still make the multi-use path close on Nira.”
The city submitted its application to close crossing at Naldo Avenue and Gary Street to the Florida Department of Transportation, which held a public hearing last week.
Gary Street at the crossing has already been closed through a Department of Transportation project. The application would serve to formally close the crossing.
According to the city’s application, 584 vehicles cross the railroad at Naldo Avenue daily. And an estimated 210 pedestrians and bike riders use the crossing weekly.
Manuel Lean is one of the managers at La Nopalera restaurant. He said businesses and residents rely on Naldo Avenue as an alternative route.
“Traffic on Hendricks Avenue gets crazy, so many people use the avenue as an alternative,” he said. “If they close this street, traffic is going to be crazier.”
Lean said he didn’t hear about the proposed closure until three days ago. The manager of V Pizza, which is also located next to the railroad closing, said she wasn’t aware of it either.
Ash said she’s spoken to more than 60 people over the past few days, and most were unaware of the proposed closure.
Officials with Duval County Public Schools, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department said the closure would not negatively affect bus routes or access for emergency vehicles.
FDOT is taking public comments on the plan through Monday before making a decision.
Those interested in commenting can email FDOT’s Freight and Rail Planner Robert Stapleton at email@example.com.