Train service from Duval to St. Johns?

St. Augustine City Commission votes 4-1 in favor of it

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The most common way to get to work in Jacksonville and St. Augustine is by car. But for bigger cities like Chicago and New York, a train is a common option.

Train service could soon be a choice for some northeast Florida residents.

If you travel Interstate 95 or U.S. Highway 1 to and from St. Johns and Duval counties between peak hours, you know what a headache traffic can be. The common complaint from drivers is congestion and a long commute.

Map of commuter rail service in northeast Florida

With that in mind, the St. Augustine City Commission voted 4-1 in favor of a proposed commuter train service in St. Johns County.

"It would be much more beneficial to have rail and multiple people going on at one point in time than cars with one or two people in them," said Mark Knight, director of St. Johns County planning and building.

The train would run alongside U.S. 1, where there is already an existing track.

The commuter rail would run heavily in the morning and evening peak times.

"The amount of people that drive to Jacksonville every day for work and the commuters that go back and forth to Jacksonville as the population grows," Knight said.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority conducted a study in 2009 identifying a line between Jacksonville and St. Johns County as one of three potential routes for the commuter rail. The federal government would most likely be willing to fund half of the project. The state, county and city would have to provide the rest.

"They have approximately five stops in St. Augustine -- Palencia, the airport, the county complex, downtown and then West Augustine -- that are tentatively laid out," Knight said.

It will be a long process to establish the new service, but locals believe it's worth the wait.

"It's easy. Once you get out you can just walk around here, there's a lot of stuff to do," St. Augustine resident Katie Ran said. "So once you get down to this area, you really don't need to drive."

"Having a car here is kind of inappropriate 'cause it's a city. You can walk everywhere," Flagler College student Avery Kuiper said. "I only need it to get to Jacksonville."

The estimated cost of the service is a little more than $193 million.

Before funding for the project is discussed, the JTA board, the railroad system and a few other agencies still need to approve the proposal. Right now they're reaching out to the public for feedback as well as meeting with elected officials.

JTA said it's aware of the proposal, but it will be sometime before it's addressed.

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