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- 2012 - July - 27th -

JTA pushes need to plan future of transportation

by David Chapman, Staff Writer

Despite funding issues for future transportation projects as a whole, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority laid out its vision Thursday to the public for connecting neighborhoods, the city and region through its consolidated plan.

The two-part public forum at the Osborn Center attracted several hundred people throughout the day.

It was designed to provide information and solicit feedback that can help shape the authority’s strategic plan to ensure the region is the “logistics capital of America,” said JTA Executive Director Michael Blaylock.

“We have to have a vision. We didn’t have the money to build the Dames Point Bridge when it was first placed on the planning table,” he said. “But the vision was there, the projected growth for this area was forecast.

“Just because you can’t afford it today doesn’t mean you stop planning,” Blaylock said.

The multifaceted approach includes a Bus Rapid Transit system, neighborhood shuttles that will feed into them, commuter rail as an alternative mode of transportation and a Regional Transportation Center that will connect it all.

Blaylock said that when integrated, each component will help people reach their destination — including the workplace — faster.

“If you’re going to be the logistics center of America, you’ve got to have more in your toolbox than roads,” he said.

For roads, though, he said it also means addressing chokepoints and bottlenecks that cause delays, such as the Blanding Boulevard area and the Butler Boulevard and Interstate 95 junction.

A shift in focus from roads is also part of the JTA’s engineering department, which will now “place a greater emphasis on transit operations and development,” according to the plan.

Brad Thoburn, JTA director of strategic planning, said the vision today is different than that of 10 years ago when the Better Jacksonville Plan was a priority.

Addressing long-term transportation issues with public transportation solutions such as commuter rail and having an integrated system where different modes feed into one another also will assist in making the region more economically competitive, he said.

“Transportation is fundamental, a foundation for economic competitiveness. Especially with the port and things we are depending on for economic growth, it’s huge,” Thoburn said.

Planning is a form of explaining a need, which can help when trying to acquire federal and state funds — both of which are available — to supplement such projects, he said.

“You’ve got to state your case. You can’t show up in 10 years and then decide you want to do it. This is how we can do that,” he said.

dchapman@baileypub.com

356-2466

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