Maintaining three southbound lanes from Marsh Landing Parkway to Marlin Ave., adding bike lanes along Marsh Landing and South Beach parkways and constructing a Florida T-intersection on SR A1A at Ponte Vedra Lakes Blvd. are among the traffic and safety improvements proposed in a new study by the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization (TPO).
TPO officials presented the study’s recommendations to a standing-room-only crowd of local residents at a meeting held May 17 at the Ponte Vedra Beach Branch Public Library. TPO Executive Director Jeff Sheffield and HNTB Transportation Engineer Jennifer Kennedy walked attendees through the $4 million in recommended improvements in the study, which examined six intersections in the North Ponte Vedra Beach/Jacksonville Beach areas:
J. Turner Butler Blvd. (JTB) and Marsh Landing Blvd.
Marsh Landing Parkway at South Beach Parkway
Sanctuary Parkway at South Beach Parkway
Ponte Vedra Lakes Blvd. at Marsh Cove Drive
Marsh Landing Parkway at SR A1A
Ponte Vedra Lakes Blvd. at SR A1A
As part of the study, Kennedy said, engineers compared existing conditions at these intersections with traffic and safety projections in 2040. A variety of alternatives were considered for each intersection with a goal toward improving both safety and traffic flow, with engineers ultimately coming up with a list of recommended improvements for each intersection.
“I know you won’t agree with everything – we’re used to that,” Sheffield said. “The goal was to look at solutions in the context of safety and traffic improvements.”
One finding that elicited both surprise and questions from the audience was TPO’s recommendation that the intersection of JTB eastbound and Marsh Landing Blvd. remain as is, with no improvements. All of the considered improvements, representatives, said, created backups onto JTB.
“To take the position that nothing can be done is something we take exception to,” said Bob Golitz of the North Ponte Vedra Beach Coalition, the group that initially requested the study. “If you can put a man on the moon in a decade, you can fix the problems at that intersection.”
Golitz said that members of the coalition – which is comprised of residents from Marsh Landing at Sawgrass Master Association, Ponte Vedra Lakes Owners Association and the Marsh Landing Business Park Owners Association – are also split regarding their views on the recommendation to extend South Beach Parkway to Ponte Vedra Lakes Blvd.
Proposed improvements to SR A1A, meanwhile, had some residents questioning whether the solutions would create problems elsewhere. The construction of a Florida T-intersection, for example, would include having two northbound lanes with constant green lights.
“I live on Avenue C,” one resident said. “How do you expect us to get out of our neighborhood and go south if we have to cross two lanes of traffic that have constant green lights?”
“(The proposed solution) does create what you’re saying,” Sheffield confirmed. “We looked at this purely from an engineering standpoint.”
Other residents pointed out that some of the study’s recommendations – including building a neighborhood park, school bus bays and a parking lot along Ponte Vedra Lakes Blvd. – involve privately owned roads. That discussion prompted Sheffield to stress that no funding has been allocated for any of the proposed improvements.
“We were asked to do an evaluation and that’s what we’re doing,” Sheffield said. “Funding is a completely different conversation.”
Should the recommendations move forward, he added, funding could come from a number of governmental sources at the county and state level. The first step, he said, was gaining input from the community on the initial recommendations. At the meeting, TPO representatives passed out comment cards for attendees to complete.
Golitz of the North Ponte Vedra Beach Coalition encouraged attendees to contact the coalition and share their views.
“We as a group have to come with a strong voice, with one voice,” he said. “We have to collectively come to terms with what our traffic and safety concerns are.”