IMAGINE JAX is a series of articles dedicated to imagining developments and projects that we think could be of help to the city. For projects that are for-sure going to happen, check out Building Up Jax.
Jacksonville’s status as a major railroad hub is undeniably one of the city’s key economic assets.
It’s a big part of what allows us to claim our nickname of “America’s logistics center”, and may even one day allow for a commuter rail system taking travelers from the heart of Jax to St. Augustine and vice versa.
For the most part, the city has done an excellent job of ensuring that railroad traffic and vehicular traffic are able to coexist peacefully. Philips Highway, one of the city’s key roadways leading from downtown straight through to St. Augustine, runs parallel to the tracks. Other high-traffic roads such as Park St., University Blvd., and Baymeadows Rd. feature viaducts – mini-bridges that allow for vehicular traffic to be routed directly over railroad tracks.
However, there’s one relatively high-traffic area in which there is no viaduct available: the San Marco neighborhood.
Why a viaduct would be helpful
San Marco is already an area where traffic tends to build up. It’s a fast-growing neighborhood, and also an in-between point for commuters going back and forth between the Mandarin area and downtown or Riverside.
To add to the traffic woes, San Marco Blvd. and Hendricks Ave. both feature just one lane of traffic going each direction.
Given this already problematic traffic situation, the interruption added by train cars passing through can make already nightmarish traffic even worse – especially during peak commuting hours.
On Hendricks, cars back up as far as Atlantic Blvd., and traffic coming onto Hendricks from the I-95 exit occasionally backs up into I-95 itself. On San Marco Ave. and Prudential Dr., the train cars block access to Baptist Health, forcing either a re-route or a five minute wait that could make a difference in a medical emergency.
A viaduct would keep vehicular traffic unimpeded without negatively impacting pedestrian access or the flow of railroad cars. And with less inconvenience caused by rail traffic, it may allow for a higher volume of railcars as well.
Where would it go?
There are two roads that would be obvious candidates for the addition of a viaduct: San Marco Blvd. and Hendricks Ave.
A viaduct on San Marco Blvd. would likely extend from the Baptist Health parking lot entrance to just before the Acosta Bridge off-ramp. Logistically, it would have to be designed so as to not close off access to the Baptist lot – in which a new parking garage is currently being constructed. Additionally, the presence of the Acosta Expressway right next to the tracks would be a potentially insurmountable issue.
A viaduct on Hendricks Ave. would run from Aardwolf Brewing Co. to Jax Paper Co.’s office. This would likely present fewer design obstacles, given that there are no overpasses in the direct vicinity.
In both instances, pedestrian and bike traffic would likely be routed along the sides of the road atop the viaduct, preventing them from entering the path of the railways as well.
Yeah, but will this ever happen?
It all depends on if people start asking for it, really.
Of the city’s existing viaducts, the overwhelming majority were constructed in conjunction with the roads themselves. Adding a viaduct to an existing road would be a foreign concept around here – but that doesn’t make it impossible.
Realistically, there are higher priorities on the city’s project list – after all, we are still only talking about a five or ten minute delay. However, when you factor in the presence of multiple key healthcare buildings in the San Marco neighborhood and its status as one of the city’s newest hot spots, it may eventually become a pressing issue.
What do YOU think about the idea of a viaduct in San Marco? Love it? Hate it? Either way, we want to know! Hit us up in the comments section below, or on any of our social media accounts.