JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than one-third of the money raised from the proposed 6-cent hike in Jacksonville’s gas tax would be used to expand the Skyway -- the underutilized automated downtown transportation system.
The Florida Times-Union once called it the joke of Jacksonville while others have referred to it as “Skyway to nowhere.”
With nearly $379 million of nearly $1 billion in revenue that the gas tax increase would generate over the next 30 years earmarked for Skyway expansion, the goal is to make it relevant. The expansion would use autonomous, street-level shuttle cars to reach the sports complex and towards Riverside.
“It’s past should not be its future,” JTA’s CEO Nat Ford said.
When the Skyway first opened in 1989 it went less than a mile. It was later expanded -- to 2.5 miles.
At the time there was an outcry from people not wanting to see local tax dollars spent on the system. When Jacksonville voted in 1988 to approve a half-cent sales tax to get rid of tolls, a promise was made that the new tax money would never go to the Skyway.
Tommy Hazouri, who the mayor at the time, wasn’t even keen on the project, then called the ASE -- the Automated Skyway Express.
“I still don’t support the ASE. I think it’s an expensive means of transportation for Jacksonville, but it’s with us. It is going to be there, so we have to make it work,” Hazouri said at the time.
Now, despite millions that would go to fund Skyway expansion, Hazouri said the city is still keeping that promise to taxpayers.
“No toll dollars or tax dollars from the tolls can go to the Skyway and they are not doing that,” Hazouri said last week as he joined Mayor Lenny Curry and others promoting what the city is calling the Jobs for Jax program.
Jeannes Levy, who used to ride the Skyway before the pandemic, says the system needs to change
“If they’re going to use it, it needs to be expanded further throughout the city,” Levy said.
And that is what JTA staff say they are pushing to happen.
News4Jax requested recent Skyway ridership figures and JTA provided this data:
|Fiscal year||Number of riders|
|2020||384,149 (closed due April-June due to COVID-19)|
City Council is expected to receive the gas-tax-funded infrastructure plan from Curry next month and hold public hearings in May. If approved, the first projects would be included in next year’s budget.