For more than five years, we've anticipated and even braced for the massive construction project that will add lanes and replace overpasses on Interstate 95 over Hendricks, Kings and Montana avenues as well as Atlantic Boulevard.
This is big — the entire project is 2.3-miles long and will cost $227 million, making it one of the largest construction projects in Jacksonville's history.
The Florida Department of Transportation says that $60.6 million is being spent to purchase 155 parcels of property, the largest land buy ever under a single contract.
It will be disruptive to a lot of people for a very long time. FDOT expects the final phase to be finished in mid-2016, more than three years from now.
Construction will most likely be very difficult for businesses in the Southbank and San Marco areas that will be disrupted by road construction, changing traffic patterns and shrinking parking for their patrons.
Many of these businesses have been in the same locations for years. Easy customer access is vital.
For people who work Downtown and normally take the Hendricks Avenue exit after crossing the Main Street Bridge to reach their homes in San Marco, San Jose and beyond, this will be a major inconvenience.
We will be doing a lot of zigging, zagging, stopping and starting.
New driving habits will have to be formed and additional time will be needed.
There's no doubt we will be forced to learn valuable lessons in patience.
Visitors driving through town and across the Fuller Warren, Acosta and Main Street bridges will have more time to take a good look at our beautiful St. Johns River and the Downtown skyline.
But, this disruption and inconvenience is necessary.
The Overland Bridge being replaced was built in 1959 and reconstructed three decades later in 1989.
Now, some 23 years later, it has been deemed "structurally deficient," meaning it must be either replaced or repaired. Wisely, I think, the state has determined that replacement is the best road to take.
This also is about growth and progress.
Part of what makes for a first-tier city is having a first-class road system. If you drive around Jacksonville and compare what we have to many other places, you can quickly see we are still ahead of the game.
We have traffic issues for sure. But for us, that means at some times of the day we travel 10 mph under the speed limit instead of 10 mph over on Butler Boulevard or Florida 9A or I-10 or I-95.
In the long run — if our businesses survive and we as drivers don't lose our patience — this construction will be better for all of us.
It looks like FDOT is trying to be sensitive to the neighborhoods around the construction, restricting lane closings to between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., prohibiting noisy pile driving during nighttime construction and extending the noise wall along I-95 where possible.
During holidays and special events like the Florida-Georgia football game, Jacksonville Jaguars home games and the Gator Bowl, FDOT says it will suspend construction to aid with the heavy flow of traffic.
I'm writing about this now because I'm concerned about those small businesses that have already gone through tough economic times and will now be hit with another potentially devastating blow.
As we are trying to add new businesses Downtown, we don't need for businesses already part of our city's fabric to be swallowed by this construction.
This is when we all need to be good neighbors.
Don't stop going to Tidbits, bb's, Basil Thai & Sushi or any other restaurant in the area because of the inconvenience. Be creative and patient and eat there more if you can.
Keep attending the lunch events, seminars and trade shows hosted by the Wyndham Jacksonville Riverwalk.
Continue to be a good and loyal customer of Reddi-Arts — just give yourself a little more time.
Let's make sure those business owners and employees know we care and support them.
We need them to be there long after this work is done, as strong and healthy and continuing to provide goods, supplies and services.
While we are at it, wouldn't it be a good time to spend part of the $1.5 million in the Southbank Community Redevelopment Area fund to upgrade, beautify and overall make the area more attractive? I believe spending the money where it was intended in the first place might keep the area viable during construction.
Here at the Daily Record, we're looking for ways to help by publishing information that will keep you up to date on the project's progress, making sure you know how to best patron to the affected businesses and doing what we can to help these businesses hold on and remain viable.
Well, it's begun.