The Riverplace Boulevard “Road Diet” is a project dating back several years and was an outgrowth of JTA’s public outreach meeting on their Southeast Bus Rapid Transit route. The bus route, which utilizes RIverplace Boulevard, initially contemplated a dedicated bus lane each direction. Residents along RIverplace strongly objected, instead urging a more pedestrian friendly corridor for residents and visitors to the Riverwalk. In addition, this segment had been designated in the City’s Mobility Plan as the top priority gap connection in our bicycle network. Last but not least, the Downtown Investment Authority’s plans for retail enhancement and economic growth urged on-street parking, and a more walkable “neighborhood” context. As a result, funds were set aside from the Southbank Tax Increment District and the a design developed to modify the existing lanes to accommodate a bike lane, wider sidewalks, and on-street parking as well as shade trees. Those plans were vetted through community meetings last year and the Downtown Development Review Board.
The last delay involved the location of underground utility lines that were incorrectly located on JEA maps. As a result, when the actual utility locations were determined, tree locations and other elements needed to be relocated. The project was finally put out to bid for construction late this fall.
When the bids were opened in December, all exceeded the available budget. I believe this is in part due to escalating prices as the economy is picking up steam and there are more roads to build than available contractors. In any event, there were enough bidders to fairly evaluate the bids and cost and we will be moving forward to appropriate sufficient funds to cover the shortfall. Hopefully we can get this accomplished quickly and enter into the contract to begin construction this spring.
The timing of the completed project should coincide with FDOT’s completion of the Fuller Warren multiuse path and other Riverwalk improvements scheduled for completion in late 19.