City looks to give SE 4th St. major facelift


Published: Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 5:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 5:19 p.m.

The city is planning a major road reconstruction project on a narrow, crumbling east Gainesville street that has not been resurfaced in nearly a half century.

The Southeast Fourth Street project would cover a roughly three-quarter mile stretch from Depot Avenue to Williston Road and carries a projected price tag of $6 million.

After some two hours of debate and discussion Thursday, commissioners unanimously approved the 30 percent completed design plans for the project.

Commissioners want staff to come back with more detailed cost estimates for different construction options before moving to more completed design plans.

Construction is expected to start in March 2015 and finish in January 2016.

The road is an industrial stretch that turns residential moving south. The city will fund the project with gas tax money earmarked for construction that increases capacity.

Plans call for reconstructing the battered road down to the base, widening the existing lanes, adding bicycle lanes, widening and rebuilding the sidewalk along the east side of the road, and constructing a sidewalk on the west side of the road.

“For years we’ve gotten complaints … because the roadway is so deficient, not just the width of the driving lanes but the sidewalk that runs along it,” Public Works Director Teresa Scott said. “That road is in a deplorable condition.”

In an area with flooding issues — Sweetwater Branch flows through a culvert under the road — stormwater improvements are also a major part of the plans.

Plans call for constructing curbs and gutters and two stormwater retention ponds. The wider footprint of the roadway, the retention ponds and the addition of a turn lane will require the city to buy private property in some areas, adding to the projected costs.

Andrew Roberts, the project manager with the city’s Public Works Department, said the city will primarily be buying up small pieces of larger properties but will likely have to work to purchase the Gainesville Ice building in the 1000 block.

While voting with the other commissioners, Mayor Ed Braddy and Commissioner Todd Chase expressed concern about the costs. They discussed potentially scaling back the project by steps such as having sidewalks on only one side of the road.

“The price tag is a big price tag, there’s no question about that,” Commissioner Lauren Poe said in response to those concerns. “I think that has to be a lesson for us as a commission when we don’t invest the first time around.”

Poe said the narrow lanes and sidewalk on this east Gainesville road reflected the “institutionalized discrimination” that once characterized government’s lack of investment in infrastructure in predominantly black communities.

Braddy said there are roads in west Gainesville, including in his neighborhood, that do not have sidewalks because they were often not included in road projects decades ago. He said he felt Poe’s comments on discrimination were hyperbole.

Poe said older white neighborhoods in the city had better infrastructure than older black communities.

Braddy then said he campaigned for mayor on the fact that the city did not invest enough on infrastructure in east Gainesville and hoped Poe would join him in addressing that deficiency.

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