Public debate over possible lane reduction on Northwest Eighth Avenue


Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 10:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 10:45 p.m.

Two differing views of Northwest Eighth Avenue emerged Tuesday night as the public weighed in on what they would like to see from a future resurfacing project.

A City Commission workshop on the road project, which will cover the 3.3-mile stretch from Northwest Sixth Street to Northwest 40th Drive, drew a crowd of more than 70.

More than 30 speakers stepped to the podium to offer their opinions on the project, which is still in the early stages of design.

To some, the road, which averages some 15,000 vehicle trips a day, is a major east-west traffic corridor.

For those residents, the possible reduction of through traffic from two lanes in each direction to one along the stretch from Northwest 23rd Street to Northwest 34th Street spelled congestion and longer commute times.

“I think we need to leave four lanes all the way and let’s spend the money somewhere else,” said Roy Huntsman, who uses Eighth Avenue on his commute to work.

Others saw a residential roadway. They are from the neighborhoods to the north and south. Westside Park and Loblolly Woods Nature Park are along that stretch of road. Littlewood Elementary School is just west of 34th Street.

To those residents, reducing the number of travel lanes and lowering the speed limit would cut down on speeding and allow for in-street bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.

“The whole of this needs to be two lanes,” said resident Sam Harris, who commutes by bike or scooter. “We need to get down to respectable speed limits.”

After three hours Tuesday, the debate and discussion will be continued. The City Commission took input but could not vote since the meeting was a workshop session.

While most of the public feedback focused on the possibility of reduced travel lanes along the stretch east of 34th Street, the possible elimination or reduction of on-street parking spaces farther east, the potential addition of a nearly $800,000 multiuse boardwalk and the option of adding a median all remain on the table.

Then there’s the condition of the road.

“As a lot of you know, it’s in pretty bad shape,” said Rahim Harji, a project manager with the Public Works Department.

From Sixth Street to 34th Street, Harji said, several areas of the roadway have to be reconstructed down to the base instead of merely being resurfaced.

Because of the roadway condition, the early projection is that reducing through traffic to one 11-foot-wide lane in each direction from roughly 23rd Street to 34th Street, with a landscaped median and bicycle lanes would, at an estimated cost of $823,060, be about $50,000 less expensive than resurfacing the road with its current configuration.

The reason, Public Works Director Teresa Scott said, is that the addition of a median would mean less asphalt and less roadway that needs significant reconstruction.

The cost estimates for the whole project, at this early stage of design, range from about $2.6 million to $3.6 million depending on whether options such as the multiuse trail are added to the project. The city already has more than $3.6 million from the local option gas tax set aside for the project.

The plan, at this point, is to wait until Alachua County resurfaces Northwest 16th/23rd Avenue, the east-west corridor to the north, before the city starts construction.

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