Chandler Otis: The case for two-laning NW 8th Ave.

Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 2:44 p.m.

If we take a look at the section of Northwest Eighth Avenue that is being considered for redesign as a two-lane road, we would see that it doesn't make any difference if it is two lanes or four lanes.

The segment is from Northwest 38th Terrace to Northwest 23rd Street, from the eastern corner of Westside park to the big hill up to Northwest 22nd Street. There are no side streets along this corridor and the road becomes two lanes as it approaches Northwest 23rd Street. Since there are no side streets in this section, it doesn't make any difference if the road is two or four lanes, as eastbound traffic must become one lane and westbound traffic has no side streets until it reaches Northwest 38th Terrace.

One may ask: "What if we want to expand Eighth Avenue to four lanes east of 22nd Street?" This would be almost impossible because of several significant engineering problems. The biggest problem would be the 13th Street bridge over Eighth Avenue. If you look at the bridge, the supporting columns would prevent four-laning. Rebuilding the bridge would be prohibitively expensive (several million dollars) and it is doubtful that the Florida Department of Transportation would permit closure and detouring of 13th Street, which would cause traffic disruption.

The other engineering problems are several narrow spots in the roadbed just west of the bridge. Rattlesnake Creek and its ancient tributaries produced several steep valleys and it would require significant engineering and a lot of fill dirt to expand the roadbed.

The new design will have a median separating the eastbound and westbound lanes, which will prevent head-on collisions. It will also provide a future space for infrastructure, especially street lighting. By moving the utility poles from the side of the street to the middle, the trees on either side of the street can grow and canopy the corridor, providing shade for walkers and joggers on the sidewalks.

If you visit this corridor, you will see it is already a quasi-linear park. Walkers and joggers constantly use the sidewalks. With a little additional investment, Eighth Avenue could become a true linear park, that is connected to both Westside Park and the Hogtown Greenway.

The new roadway design will provide an in-street bike lane, so commuter cyclists can connect with the university and downtown.

Adult cyclists can use the road, which improves safety for joggers on the sidewalk, while schoolchildren can bicycle on the sidewalk to schools (Westwood, Littlewood) or to Westside Park.

Rather than responding to the propagandists' cries of "road narrowing!" we need to look closely at the actual changes that are proposed. I think that this redesign of Eighth Avenue will expand recreational opportunities while not affecting the efficiency of the road.

Chandler Otis lives in Gainesville.

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