With lane reduction, game-day traffic on NW 8th Ave. is smooth

Northwest Eighth Avenue, with its new two-lane configuration, is seen looking west down the hill toward 34th Street.

Published: Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:40 p.m.

Despite concerns about the Northwest Eighth Avenue lane reduction hindering traffic flow, cars were running smoothly down the stretch of road after the Florida-Toledo football game Saturday afternoon.

Assistant Public Works Director Phil Mann monitored traffic using the city's Traffic Management System, which has cameras at 171 road spots around the city, including one at the Northwest Eighth Avenue and 34th Street intersection.

Mann said cars driving toward the stadium backed up to the bottom of the hill before the game and traffic going away from the stadium didn't stop beyond 31st Street.

"I didn't see any difference in traffic than I'd seen in past years," he said.

The lane reduction, which started Aug. 4, narrowed the seven-tenths-mile stretch between Northwest 23rd Street and Northwest 31st Drive from two lanes in each direction to one. The city added a median in the middle and bike lanes on each side.

In May, the City Commission voted 6-1 to go forward with the project, which is in the midst of a trial period for an undetermined amount of time. The commission could decide to keep the road at two lanes until a resurfacing project of Northwest Eighth Avenue begins in 2015.

The city will collect data on travel times, vehicle counts and pedestrian and bicycle usage during the trial period, Mann told The Sun in July.

Local residents have expressed concern about the narrowing, especially during home football games, when thousands of fans flock to Gainesville over a short period of time.

"I think personally during the week, I don't see a really major problem because eventually (the road) has to move into one lane (in each direction)," said resident Ron Ruppel, who bikes Northwest Eighth Avenue weekly. "But I feel during game day, because there's so many more cars that are going to be on that road, there's going to be more backup."

Even though there wasn't much congestion Saturday, many cars turning left from Northwest 23rd Street — which connects University Avenue and Eighth Avenue — illegally used the median as a buffer lane to ease into westbound traffic.

If the commission was to vote to continue the lane reduction, Mann said the most likely outcome would be a raised median. However, he added that converting the median to a cushion lane could be something the city considers if it would help with traffic flow.

The public works department will continue monitoring game-day traffic as the experiment continues, Mann said, especially on days when UF is playing rivalry games.

"The true test will be … when Tennessee comes into town," he said.

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