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City commission approves design phase for changes to University Avenue and 13th Street

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

At the October 21 Gainesville City Commission meeting, HDR Engineering, consultants hired by the City, presented the results of Phase 1 of their Corridor Study of 1.9 miles of University Avenue (from NW 22nd St to NE 3rd St) and 1 mile of 13th Street (from SW 9th Ave to NW 5th Ave). The goals of the study were to improve safety, prioritize people, analyze and develop concepts, recommend interim and ultimate improvements, and partner with UF and FDOT.

For the corridor along University Avenue from NW 22nd St to NW 12th St (just past 13th Street), the recommendations include wider sidewalks, more landscaping, removing on-street parking, more areas with medians, and narrower vehicle lanes. The 20-foot shared use path on campus is a separate project that is currently planned by the university. The changes are not projected to add any traffic delay.

Along University Avenue from NW 12th St to NW 6th St, the recommendations include a cycle track, wider sidewalks, more landscaping, a median, and narrower vehicle lanes. The changes would add 0.3 to 1.1 minutes of traffic delay.

Recommendations for the section of University Avenue from NW 6th St to NE 3rd St include a cycle track, narrower vehicle lanes, and, in some areas, wider sidewalks, more landscaping, and some added medians. An estimate of traffic delays in unavailable for this section.

Along SW 13th St from SW 9th Ave to University Avenue, the recommendations include more areas with medians, wider medians, and narrower vehicle lanes. In that section, the consultant said the additional medians will help “if somebody tried to cross the street and not follow the rules, they’re not at least waiting on a double yellow line. They’re waiting in a median refuge area. Older engineers would say they crossed at the wrong place; that’s their fault. We’re trying to be more sensitive and smarter to make those facilities so that people would be safe and make as few mistakes as possible.” The changes would not add vehicle delays.

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The recommendations for the section of NW 13th St from University Avenue north to NW 5th Ave include more areas with medians, wider medians, and narrower vehicle lanes. The changes are not anticipated to produce vehicle delays. 

The consultant said they also did quite a bit of coordination with UF, and they discussed adding roundabouts in several locations. 

They did a rendering of what roundabouts could look like where SW 2nd Ave joins with University Avenue. The consultant said the roundabouts “would reinforce this is a gateway, so when you’re coming from the west towards campus, you go through the series of roundabouts and it really slows you down… we think it helps to reinforce the messaging… Traffic signals don’t slow you down when the light is green, but roundabouts slow you down every time you go through them, no matter what.”

The interim improvement recommendations included roundabouts, new and reconstructed medians, a cycle track connecting to the campus multi-use trail, additional improved pedestrian crossings, and raised crosswalks. The interim improvements can mostly be done without reconstructing the entire curb lines and drainage along the roads, but they would still need to go through FDOT’s repurposing process. 

The consultant suggested that a future phase could analyze traffic patterns on University Avenue that reflect the new speed tables (which can affect choices about which street to take across town) and changes in traffic patterns arising from the pandemic (more people working/studying from home). 

He recommended more studies extending farther along both University Avenue and 13th St in both directions, identifying funding and project phasing, and coordinating lane repurposing (removing lanes) with FDOT. He concluded, “We’ve tried to make the corridor more about what it could be for people and less focused on the automobile.”

Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos pointed out that while taller buildings have been built near the university, traffic has actually stayed flat: “That’s what happens when you build higher density stuff. People can walk to their job, to retail… they don’t have to drive.”

“I love roundabouts, I personally love roundabouts. I have noticed that people are confused by roundabouts—despite how many times you go around them, they’re frequently confused.” – Commissioner Reina Saco

Commissioner Reina Saco thanked the consultant for including pictures of people with “different color and ability… not just white people” in the presentation. She continued, “I love roundabouts, I personally love roundabouts. I have noticed that people are confused by roundabouts—despite how many times you go around them, they’re frequently confused.” She said she was also concerned about having two roundabouts so close to each other on University Avenue “and people’s ability to navigate those.”

The consultant replied that when people make mistakes at traffic signals, “there’s high kinetic energy and t-bone—smack. At roundabouts when people make mistakes, they’re all going at slightly the same angle and making dumb mistakes at much lower speeds… and the severity and fatality is drastically reduced. It’s a trade-off.”

Saco said, “That’s why I love them, but I worry about people using them. Like cars are useful, unless you have someone who doesn’t know how to use it properly.”

“It took me a few years to get the gospel of the roundabout, to really feel it, but I really feel it now… People get confused and maybe a little anxious about roundabouts, but nearly every driver thinks they’re real good at traffic signals, to the point that they just drive right on through them, and that’s why I have religion about roundabouts.” – Commissioner Harvey Ward

Commissioner Harvey Ward said, “It took me a few years to get the gospel of the roundabout, to really feel it, but I really feel it now… People get confused and maybe a little anxious about roundabouts, but nearly every driver thinks they’re real good at traffic signals, to the point that they just drive right on through them, and that’s why I have religion about roundabouts. People don’t die on them. People die at traffic signals… Most people don’t mean to drive through a red light, but it happens because you feel confident, you think you can get it done, but you don’t do that at a roundabout.” 

Ward was concerned that it will “take a while” to implement the changes, and the commission “is going to change fairly drastically in a little over a year, so we’ve got to figure out… how to energize the community to push the next folks who sit in these chairs to push this on through because this won’t get done.” He particularly wanted to extend the study out to NE 15th Street to get past Waldo Road and include more of the community. 

Commissioner David Arreola said he wished “we could two-lane the whole thing. I don’t know that we would be able to do that under the current circumstances, given the direction of the legislature… Ultimately, we’re going to have to really change people’s mentality about what this road is for. It’s no longer the state road that was the only way east and west through Alachua County… I think it’s very, very important that the university is in the lead on [lobbying the legislature] because… something like this I think is very necessary for a top-five public university.”

Mayor Lauren Poe said he was “slightly disappointed that the recommendations… are not a little more inclusive of a Complete Streets scenario. I understand why that is. It really comes down to FDOT’s thresholds and where they’ll consider reconfiguration of a street… I know that this is next phase, but certainly going down to 34th Street, there’s absolutely no reason to keep that a three-lane road… What I most want to see is that whatever modifications we are able to make… is easily and quickly modifiable, so we can get to what is the actual safest Complete Street configuration as soon as possible.”

The consultant had said that FDOT requires daily traffic to be under 20,000 vehicles per day to remove lanes, but University Avenue and 13th Street are both close to 30,000 per day (29,500 for University Avenue in front of the university and 33,000 for 13th Street along the university). Poe said traffic could drop to around 20,000 in the near future with the speed tables “and some of the other enforcement efforts that we’ve been undergoing as well.”

Hayes-Santos moved the staff recommendation, which was to authorize the City Manager to identify a funding source to cover the design of the preferred corridor alternatives adopted by the City Commission and also secure a design consultant and proceed with the design phase. Arreola seconded the motion. The funding is estimated at $500,000.

The motion passed unanimously.

  • And I’m so happy that Saco noticed the different skin color of the people in the pictures. That’s Important!

    Now we can forget the other 10,000 roads full of potholes in Gainesville.

    This commission is pathetic.

    • Maybe an actual adult will run against this when of virtue signaling when she’s up for reelection…
      But then, are there enough City of Gainesville residents who will actually vote for someone who lives in the real world and thinks through the consequences of leftist/woke policies?
      Probably not …

  • and then there will be a per-mile driving tax along with a Carbon Tax…Happy Anti-Human Agenda 2030 Smotherfest!

  • London, England’s Congestion Charge: The Congestion Charge applies between 7am and 10pm,
    seven days a week, except Christmas Day. The Congestion Charge costs £15 if you pay in
    advance or on the same day. Drivers now also have up to three days after the day of travel to
    pay the daily charge at a higher rate of £17.50.

    • Congestion charge? I was talking to a guy from Oregon
      Who builds houses by the water and he was saying
      The get billed a “view tax”….

  • The consultant had said that FDOT requires daily traffic to be under 20,000 vehicles per day to remove lanes, but University Avenue and 13th Street are both close to 30,000 per day (29,500 for University Avenue in front of the university and 33,000 for 13th Street along the university). Poe said traffic could drop to around 20,000 in the near future with the speed tables “and some of the other enforcement efforts that we’ve been undergoing as well.”

    Poe is planning on reducing University Avenue/13th Street vehicle traffic by more than 33%? Is this where the potentially-lethal “vaccine” injections factor in by reducing human population?

  • Since I won’t ever go below 5th street on Main and never use University again after changes they can dig it up and make it dirt for all I care. Businesses for students only.

  • I did lots of bicycling (almost every work day) from NW Gnv. to 13th and Univ. and into campus (bicycling and walking) for 7+ years. My only thoughts had to do with how nasty the streets look because of over-grown (vines, weeds, garbage trees) landscaping and homeless people leaving their trash all over and posted handbills. I never once thought it was unsafe for me to use the sidewalks and street for bicycling or walking. I’ve also driven plenty of streets around this city. I’ve watched as the city has spent lots changing medians, crosswalks, “sharrows,” bicycle lanes, sidewalks, curbs, etc. which was all a waste. Many of the medians aren’t maintained, traffic has gotten worse on 13th and 34th Street, and still I see the same 1 or 2 people using the bicycle “features.” When rode my bicycle from NW Gnv to near NFRM for 2+ years to and from work, I routinely saw no one using the bicycle lanes or bicycling at all for that matter.

    These overlords don’t want to face the reality that people like the freedom and convenience of driving. Therefore, as long as the residents of this city keep voting for these comrades, we will keep getting the same waste of money.

    • I agree…I can go on a 30-minute bike ride around downtown Gainesville and encounter maybe one or two other bicyclists. As more and more UF courses and other resources move to online learning models, the numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists will only decrease. On the other hand, with more people using grocery and other delivery services (Fedex, Amazon, etc.), the number of vehicles on the road is increasing. Poe, Saco, etc. can’t accept the fact that most of their “neighbors” would probably rather ride around in motorized fat carts than have to pedal a bicycle or even walk a block when they can call an Uber.

      • Mr. Peabody with Quality Insight!

        Mr. Peabody: with more people using grocery and other delivery services the number of vehicles on the road is increasing. Poe, Saco, etc. can’t accept the fact that most of their “neighbors” would probably rather ride around in motorized fat carts than have to pedal a bicycle or even walk a block when they can call an Uber.

    • Good point, Lack of Critical Thinking!

      Lack of Critical Thinking: These overlords don’t want to face the reality that people like the freedom and convenience of driving.

  • That median in the middle of the street will be great
    For the panhandlers…they can set up there 24/7.

    • They need to include hibachis, picnic tables, and hang some hammocks between the trees. Don’t bother with garbage cans since they wouldn’t be properly used.

      • where are the TrashCans in the MasterPlans? HiddenGarbageCans are the humans scammed? (TrashFreeFakeReality as BluePrintsScamHumanity PosingAsLovingGreenTrees while TargetingHonestEarnestWhitey)

  • Thank God they’re adding circles instead of stoplights. But I fear drivers will confuse bike lanes with vehicle lanes, and will they let scooter riders use bike lanes PLEASE? Then add in open container peds to the mix….

    • They will probably put up signs that say: “bicycles can
      Use the whole lane” like in areas on NW 6th st around
      NW 23rd…I have yet to see a bike take the whole car
      Lane, but stupid is as stupid does…

  • This is all about “safety”? Narrowing vehicle lanes is about “safety”?

    • I would love the commissioners to be the first guinea pigs, I mean pedestrians, after a football game on a Saturday night for implementation of this project. Just hope they line ’em up by order of their own perception of importance to the community.😂

  • Roundabouts are designed to keep the traffic moving. I’ve always been puzzled by them when it is clear the primary focus is on pedestrian traffic. I’m betting they will install lights at some point. 🙂

  • The reason given for all these miles of changes was the truly unfortunate deaths in the four block stretch from NW 16th Street to NW 20th. These plans smell like another case of ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’.

    This four block area has been a distracting area to drive for years but I have yet to see the commission take any responsibility for the significant recent increase in distraction caused by its own actions.

    For years now, the cycle for the light at 17th is often fully consumed by pedestrians crossing University. And now the city has allowed scaffolding on the NE corner of University and NW 17th to the very edge of the traffic lane. Pedestrians on the NE corner are pushed to the very edge of the travel lane. With pedestrians and scaffolding blocking the view east on University, there is no margin of safety to turn right-on-red from NW 17th. Less patient drivers are latently being encouraged to ‘guess and go’ right-on-red with little attention to pedestrians on the NW corner.

    Wouldn’t it be cheaper to mitigate the problems at this intersection by closing off NW 17th a block north of University and route its traffic a couple blocks east and west around the Gator Plaza complex?

    Second, they added distraction by encouraging businesses to add pedestrian traffic into the parking buffer in the Gator Plaza\Purple Porpoise corridor with outdoor seating during covid. There are a lot more cars stopping in the travel lanes nowadays to make drop offs than there were pre-covid. This behavior will continue, and with narrower traffic lanes, if the consultant advice is implemented.

    • These proposed changes look great! They will significantly improve the quality of life in these corridors. And, they will beautify a area that sorely needs it.

  • “End of the Road” is a song by American R&B group Boyz II Men for the Boomerang soundtrack. It was released in 1992 and was written by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Antonio L.A. Reid and Daryl Simmons

    “End of the Road” spent a then record-breaking 13 weeks at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, a record broken later in the year by Whitney Houston’s 14-week number one hit “I Will Always Love You”

  • Late to the party…

    “I love roundabouts, I personally love roundabouts. I have noticed that people are confused by roundabouts—despite how many times you go around them, they’re frequently confused.” – Commissioner Reina Saco

    Most people who have block heads tend to like round things.

    People get confused and maybe a little anxious about roundabouts, but nearly every driver thinks they’re real good at traffic signals, to the point that they just drive right on through them, and that’s why I have religion about roundabouts.” – Commissioner Harvey Ward

    There ain’t much Ward feels and I don’t think what he does would be appropriate for mentioning here. I will however say that I seriously doubt he has much religion about anything.

    Nice recommendation, let’s narrow the vehicle lanes. Does anyone with even 1/2 an education think that would be a good idea?

    Wonder how much $$$$ the city idiots are padding their pockets with in this proposal.

    People actually believe this crap?

    • realtruth2020, good point. Harvey Ward has religion about Agenda 2030 Demonology.

  • Do fire trucks and 18 wheelers negotiate those
    Roundabouts well? What about deliveries by semi’s
    To businesses in those areas?

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