Should Arlington Expressway be pedestrian friendly?

14 pedestrians hit, 3 fatal crashes on expressway in last 5 years

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The first suburban freeway in Jacksonville could be getting a major face-lift down the line.

The Arlington Expressway was built in 1953 and was key to linking downtown and Arlington.

Now the expressway has become an eyesore and a danger.

From May 2010 to May 2015, about 100 crashes per year were reported on the expressway, including three fatalities. In that time, 14 pedestrians were hit, including 10 on service roads for the expressway.

"I would sit here when I'm walking around patrolling, and I watch people with toddlers or whatever crawl between the fence and the pole and dodge traffic to get across," said Bucky Carver, who lives and works near the expressway.

DOCUMENT: Study calling for pedestrian-friendly expressway

Because of the dangerous nature of the roadway, the current efforts have been to keep pedestrians off the part of the expressway that runs from University Boulevard down to Mill Creek Road, which is near the Regency Square Mall.

But a preliminary study by the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization suggests making bike lanes, sidewalks and other pedestrian friendly areas on both sides of the highway.

Carver said he was glad to hear the city is talking about changes.

Alternative 1 calls for a six-lane highway with a 7-foot bike lane and an 8-foot sidewalk behind trees. Alternative 2 calls for three 12-foot traffic lanes and a 7-foot bike lane with sidewalks along the edge.

"That would be kind of scary because of the cars going so fast. I wouldn't want to bike on the expressway," cyclist Mike Arline said.

State Rep. Lake Ray said he is well aware of the problems surrounding the expressway.

"I think it is time for us to really step up and take a look at ways we can enhance (the highway), make it more user-friendly for the community and be able to better it for everybody," Ray said.

Another problem along the expressway is the number of boarded-up businesses. The study showed there are 65 vacant or underutilized properties along the route. The current expressway divides the area in half, and some said they think a new expressway would bring both sides together and would make businesses more profitable.

The cost would be around $50 million to implement some of the changes, and it would take state and city approval before the changes could begin. No funding source has been suggested yet, but the study said improving the area could have a $178 million impact.

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