Transportation planners ponder bikepaths, more
Organization has heard from 2,000 Northeast Florida residents about paths
ORANGE PARK – More bicycle and walking paths could be coming to a neighborhood near you.
The North Florida Transportation Planning Organization has heard from 2,000 Northeast Florida residents about a plan to enhance biking and walking paths in a four-county area, including Clay County. It recently held a public meeting at Orange Park Town Hall to further gauge support for improving the pathways in our area.
"We’re trying to learn where there might be gaps or barriers," said Public Affairs Manager Marci Larson. "We want feedback about areas that need improvement, an upgrade, or changed. That’s what these meetings are about: looking at inventory of facilities already in place."
Nassau, St. Johns, Duval and Clay Counties are included in the NFTPO’s master plan study to improve or connect paths and build new ones. One public meeting has been scheduled for each county and two in Duval. The meeting for Clay was held Feb. 20. Fifteen residents attended the meeting to give input during phase two of the 20-year plan.
"Every five years, we do a long range plan update," Larson said. "We have to plan for 20 years out. So right now, we’re trying to figure out transportation needs for 2040."
All modes of transportation are taken into account, including bicycling, walking, transit, light rail, bus, and commuter rail. The trails and paths are necessary not only for recreation, but for personal mobility to work or school.
"With the transportation network, it’s how you connect the various modes and the conveyance to get from point A to B," Larson said. "Our mobility to achieve that affects our quality of life."
Theodore Petritsche is a senior transportation engineer for Tampa-based Sprinkle Consulting that is working with NFTPO on the mater plan. He led the discussion at the TPO input meeting in Orange Park. Sprinkle Consulting has worked with the federal government, as well as other transportation organizations in Colorado, Texas, Washington state, and Arizona.
"There are very localized connections people wanted to make in Clay County," Petritsch said, "We’ve found out that bikers like to ride the Black Creek Trail or Doctors Lake trail, but getting from one to the other was tricky."
Petritsch said the needs are different in each county.
"The needs of getting around downtown Jacksonville are likely to be different than people at beaches who want to beach cruise around and get across U.S. 1," said Petritsch, a serious cyclist for 27 years. "A lot of people want more outreach to motorists with regard to the fact that bikes are out there and the safety issues surrounding them."
Avid jogger Bob Fernee purchases footwear for 1st Place Sports in Orange Park and thinks the trail connections are a great idea as there are not many trails.
"Safety is a particular concern," Fernee said. "I know a lot of people who go out to the Baldwin Rails to Trails because it’s safe. On [U.S. Highway] 17, motorists don’t want to share the pavement."
Trail improvements have already begun, such as tree trimming or repaving sidewalks. Priorities are based on population and business density and where residents want to ride for recreational purposes. Funding for the project will be discussed as part of the long range plans and will come from a variety of different sources, including federal, state and local dollars.
Walking or biking provides more than just a way to work. Exercise decreases stress, controls weight, improves mood, and can ward off heart disease. For Ma- linda Barker of Fleming Island, jogging around her neighborhood clears her mind during time to herself.
"Running is like a meditation," Barker said.
"... We’ve found out that bikers like to ride the Black
Creek Trail or Doctors Lake trail, but getting from one to the other was tricky."
— Theodore Petritsche