County OKs roadwork priority list

In this Dec. 20, 2013 file photo, traffic makes its way along Tower Road near Kimball Wiles Elementary School in Gainesville. It's near the top of the county's list for needed road projects.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 7:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 7:09 p.m.

The Alachua County Commission gave direction Tuesday on how best to refine its project lists for the transportation sales tax initiative that the county is considering putting on November’s ballot.

The commission approved 4-0 the newest version of its priority list for road projects, which it hopes to pay for with its share of the revenue from the proposed eight-year, 1-cent sales tax if voters approve the measure. Commissioner Charles “Chuck” Chestnut IV was absent from Tuesday’s vote.

The roads list includes 75 projects, at least 32 of which the county hopes to fund through the transportation initiative over the course of the first eight years.

If voters approve the sales tax referendum in November, the commission could eventually put it back on the ballot to see if voters will renew it for several more years, which would allow the county and its municipalities to complete even more projects with their respective shares of the revenue.

The No. 1 project on the roads priority list is Northwest 43rd Street from Newberry Road to U.S. 441, which would cost about $7.7 million.

Also among the top 10 projects on the list is one for Tower Road from Archer Road to Newberry Road, which would cost almost $4.2 million.

The County Commission hasn’t yet voted to officially put the sales tax referendum on the November ballot and still must approve final project lists as well.

The commission hopes to considerably cut down its $550 million backlog in road repairs with funding from the transportation sales tax if it’s approved.

Transportation Planning Manager Jeff Hays said the county would get an estimated $12.9 million per year as its share of the sales tax, 95 percent of which it would put toward roads.

The remaining 5 percent would be earmarked for bicycle and pedestrian projects, so county staff presented a tentative project list for those as well on Tuesday.

Commissioner Mike Byerly proposed adding the Transporting Ecologies braids that are incomplete to the tentative bicycle/pedestrian project list, which the commission voted to do 3-1 with Commissioner Susan Baird in dissent and Chestnut absent.

Hays told The Sun the Transporting Ecologies study was included in 2004 as an addendum to the Alachua County Bicycle Master Plan.

The braids included in that report are bicycle corridors that would connect different parts of the community.

For example, the Archer Braid Trail, part of which has already been built while another segment running through Haile Plantation is under construction, was listed in the Transporting Ecologies study as a major priority.

Byerly’s motion, approved 3-1, also directed the county to coordinate with the city of Gainesville, other municipalities and the Florida Department of Transportation to further refine and prioritize the bicycle/pedestrian project list, which would be a long-term effort, as well as to work with its bicycle/pedestrian advisory board and other interested groups to come up with a lengthier project list prior to the commission’s adoption of final project lists for the transportation initiative.

Bob Karp, who is on the board of directors for Gainesville Citizens for Active Transportation, a citizen-led coalition, told the commission Tuesday he supports looking at the braid proposals even though they’re a little more conceptual and said he appreciates the 5 percent earmark for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

“You know, it’s not just even bicyclists that really care about that,” Karp said.

There are people who don’t cycle but want to live in a community that supports cycling, he said.

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