Bayfront modification: Grant process begins

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Historic City News reporters heard over an hour of discussion and concerns during last night’s St. Augustine City Commission meeting, from citizens still unsure about modification of SR-A1A along the bayfront and Castillo.

The final plan submitted to commissioners last night was the culmination of studying twelve alternative plans and listening to citizens in neighborhood groups, at meetings, and individually over the past several months. Some commissioners and members of the public continue to be hesitant.

At least two commissioners expressed lingering questions about the Halback Design Group’s plans to alter the state highway that currently separates the Castillo and bayfront; one voted against the plan while the other was only willing to yield support after being assured the commission will have more opportunities to discuss the plan’s elements.

City Manager John Regan said the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks program “will allow us to seek monies for various elements” of bayfront traffic design. “I don’t think anything could be started until 2012,” he added, “and it’s not realistic to begin realigning roads until after 2015.”

The bayfront design modification was fashioned less than 48 hours prior to last night’s meeting, but won approval by a 4-1 vote.

Commissioner Bill Leary voted against the plan, which would reduce two northbound lanes to one near the Castillo, with a dedicated right turn lane into the Castillo parking lot.

Planning and Building Director Mark Knight said commissioners will have an opportunity to reconsider the plan when cost estimates and a grant application are brought back at the March 28 and April 11 meetings.

The program was originally estimated at $9 million, anticipating three grant applications of $3 million. The first application opportunity is mid-April.

Does it need fixing? Costs, lane changes, and business disruptions were among concerns expressed about the bayfront traffic plan.

“I have to wonder if this needs fixing, if it’s not broken,” Freeman said. “I hear businesses saying they’ve had enough construction along the bay.”

Leary questioned an understanding that no local fund match is required in the relatively new federal program, designed to improve traffic flow around national parks and monuments.

“I spoke to a federal official involved in road programs and he believes a 20 percent match is required,” Leary reported. “That could be nearly $2 million (in the estimated $9 million project).”

Leary also noted there are no improvements in the design on changing lanes from four to two to three along Anastasia Boulevard and the bayfront.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News contributed photograph by Lindsay Wiles Gramana

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