Byerly, others walk Archer Braid route
Published: Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 8:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 8:53 p.m.
On the corner of Southwest 46th Boulevard and 91st Street, County Commissioner Mike Byerly gathered Thursday afternoon with county staff and residents for a walk along part of the planned Archer Braid Trail route set to run through Haile Plantation.
Byerly met with them to look at the route along 46th Boulevard in particular and discuss design options. He told the crowd of about 30 people that the turnout exceeded his expectations.
Earlier this month, the Alachua County Commission voted 3-2 to run the Archer Braid Trail — a path planned to stretch from the city of Archer to the University of Florida and beyond — through Haile Plantation. That reversed the board’s September vote to switch to an alternative route connecting Archer and Tower roads directly.
Now, county staff are developing a design for the 2.2-mile Haile route, which will connect Archer and Tower roads by way of 91st Street and 46th Boulevard, in anticipation of the Florida Department of Transportation’s March deadline.
Construction is expected to begin in fall 2013, said Chris Zeigler, senior engineering technician for the county.
Sara Novak, 33, said she came to the walk because she is under contract to buy a house in Haile by the intersection of 91st Street and 46th Boulevard and wanted to learn how it could impact the vegetation by that property.
“We’re definitely purchasing the house, but we’re trying to get as much information as possible,” she said of herself and her fiance.
She was concerned about traffic noise even without the trail — her house can already be seen through the foliage from the intersection — and more so by the thought that more foliage could be removed due to the incoming route.
Dale Johnson, 52, a Haile Plantation homeowner, said the Haile route helped persuade her to consider buying a home in the neighborhood. She plans to use it every day once it’s built.
“I wanted that connectivity,” she said. “This isn’t about people commuting from Archer inasmuch as it is about connectivity for people who live around here, too.”
Byerly and the crowd first discussed ideas for the intersection of the two Haile roadways, where the trail needs to cross over from one to the other. He mentioned concerns about the trail’s proximity to the road and nearby trees that staff don’t want to uproot if possible.
One woman asked if replacement trees would be planted for any that are uprooted due to construction. Byerly replied that the county takes tree replacement into account.
“There’ll be more trees when we’re done than there are now,” he said.
Joan Weiland, 81, questioned how Haile residents like herself will be able to maneuver with bicyclists riding across intersections along the trail.
“When I come out to get onto Haile Boulevard, I’m going to have bikes coming this way and that way,” she said.
Byerly said bicycles are everywhere and bicyclists have a right to be on the road along with drivers.
In the wake of the commission’s December decision, Weiland said she thought a lawsuit should be drawn up over the dispute. A couple other residents also spoke up about their opposition to the trail.
The issue has divided Haile residents in recent months. During the exchange, Byerly said he didn’t want to rehash the controversy but rather discuss design issues. He did point out that they were on a public street and the county builds public infrastructure like this trail with public money. The Haile route will be funded by about $750,000 from the federal Department of Transportation.
As Weiland and her husband left the group soon after her brief exchange with Byerly, she said she didn’t want to see the incoming trail make Haile Plantation, where she has lived for about 25 years, look “trashy.”
“I don’t understand why they have to come in and disturb the beauty of Haile Plantation,” she said.
Other than that brief, heated discussion, the walk primarily was focused on the trail design. The group, comprised of both supporters and opponents of the Haile route, walked along the side of 46th Boulevard as staff described tentative plans along the way and residents offered their opinions.
Jeff Hays, the county’s transportation planning manager, said the route would draw closer to the main roadway at many intersections to run in front of the white lines at stop signs. Vehicles already stop there, and routing pedestrians and bicyclists in front of them can improve safety.
Residents asked if stop signs would be posted along the trail for its travelers. According to Hays, some may be posted at intersections where the route runs behind the roadway stop signs.
Others asked about the width of the trail. Along 46th Boulevard, it should primarily be 8 feet wide except in places where obstacles like a large tree or stormwater drainage issues necessitate a narrower path, Hays said. It should be mainly 10 feet wide along 91st Street.
As he walked along the trail, Byerly said the point of this trip was to look at potential problems and gather ideas. Staff can later inform the commission of design issues and key decision points along the trail that have multiple planning options.
Wes White, a member of the Haile Plantation Association’s board of directors, used a wooden measuring stick to demonstrate anticipated trail inclines and mentioned the primary intersection for the two roadways as a key concern.
As he left his fellow walkers, White, who disliked the Haile route, said he was left with many questions about the trail’s design and said the excursion seemed like a public relations opportunity.
Byerly and other walkers continued on for a while, with bicyclists occasionally riding by in the road as county staff and residents alike examined the route for a future bicycle trail they could use instead.
Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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