Skeptics attend St Augustine Mobility Institute

Some participants in the St Augustine Mobility Institute, going on this week at different venues around the city, have expressed concerns and some skepticism about what exactly it is that the planners have in mind for the city’s transportation system.

The transportation study is being conducted by the City of St Augustine and the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization; financed by a $125,000 grant.

An intensive series of public workshops are being held at various locations along the city’s three entrance corridors — King Street, San Marco Avenue, and Anastasia Boulevard.

Former county commissioner and run-off candidate for the November 6 St Augustine City Commission election, Bruce Maguire, has been in constant contact with a constituency of local residents and business persons who question the motives and timing of these public hearings.

By last night’s meeting at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, regarding San Marco Avenue between Castillo Drive and US-1, Maguire says consultants with the Kansas City, Missouri based engineering consulting firm of Harrington, Needles, Tammen and Bergendoff, HNTB, “obviously took notes from yesterday and Monday and made corrections in their presentation, their analysis and their ideas.”

This evening, residents will gather for the Anastasia Boulevard Corridor meeting between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. at the Anastasia Island Conservation Center of the St Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park located at 999 Anastasia Boulevard; regarding Anastasia Boulevard from the Bridge of Lions to Spartina Avenue.

Maguire told reporters, “As residents, we’re not sure what the City Commissioners intend to do with this study.” Maguire shared some of the communications he has received from people living in close proximity to the entrance corridors in question. Some say that they had no knowledge that the mobility study was being held.

Maguire said that he “did some digging” and discovered that property owners (not residents or tenants) within 500 feet on either side of each corridor were supposedly notified, by mail, with a flyer announcing the program.

“I contacted John Regan and Mark Knight,” Maguire said. “The consultants generated a list of over 3,000 property owners (both commercial and residential) and paid for the copying of the flyers to mail to each of these property owners.”

After Maguire says he received feedback from several who attended Monday or Tuesday’s meeting who stated they never received such a flyer, he learned that the consultants did not mail the flyers — the City did. And, he told Historic City News, the City paid the cost of the 3,000-piece mailing.

Still some residents complained that the lack of notice left them unprepared and added to their skepticism. A number of business owners along the King Street corridor say they are having “flashbacks” to a few months ago when they were given notice only days before the Florida Department of Transportation intended to shut down King Street from the Post Office to Malaga Street for extensive repairs.

Maguire is credited for organizing the King Street residents and merchants and arranging for City Manager John Regan, City Commissioner Bill Leary, and Public Works Director Martha Graham to meet with them and hear first-hand how devastating an impact the construction would have. The work was stalled until after the 450th.

By Friday, the consultants say that they will have learned enough about mobility challenges along King Street, San Marco Avenue, and Anastasia Boulevard to propose solutions. The Wrap-Up meeting, bringing together the results and recommendations of the study, will be held Friday September 21, from 2:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m., in the Alcazar Room at St Augustine City Hall located at 75 King Street.

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