Gainesville greenlights next University Ave phase

The Gainesville City Commission voted Thursday to move ahead with the preliminary design phase of a project that will alter portions of University Avenue and 13th Street.

HDR Engineering, which the city hired to do an initial study and develop ways to alter the roadways to make them safer, presented its phase 2 recommendations to the commission at its regular meeting Thursday.

Phase 1 covered 1.9 miles of University Avenue and 13th Street near the UF campus. Results of the Phase 1 study were presented to the commission in October.

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Phase 2 expanded the initial area, looking at a portion of West University Avenue from Northwest 22nd Street to Northwest 34th Street and a portion of East University Avenue from Northeast Third Street to Southeast 31st Street, which is just past Fred Cone Park.

University Avenue redesign

The second part of the study also expanded the 13th Street project area north from Northwest Fifth Avenue to Northwest Eighth Avenue and south from Southwest Ninth Avenue to Southwest 16th Avenue.

After hearing HDR’s recommendations, the commission voted unanimously to move forward with a preliminary design and environment study for the two roads.

Malisa McCreedy, the city’s director of transportation, said the next phase would “will get us actual design that we can implement and construct from.”

The city is currently searching for a consultant for the next phase and has set aside $1 million to complete it, according to city records.

“I think this is a substantial next step,” said Mayor Lauren Poe. “I think that’s where we get the true cost estimates and some of our more detailed options.”

HDR’s recommendations for the Phase 2 segments varied based on the average daily traffic totals for each segment. Higher traveled segments, where average daily traffic goes above 20,000 vehicles, are not good candidates for some traffic calming initiatives, according to state guidelines.

The Phase 1 portions of University and 13th closest to UF were mostly above 20,000 vehicles. However, portions of East University from Northeast Third Street to Southeast 31st Street have average daily traffic around 11,000 vehicles.

HDR is recommending going from four lanes to two lanes with a median and bike lanes on either side of the road during that segment of East University.

The Phase 2 portion of West University is a stretch of road with two lanes in one direction and one lane in the other direction. HDR is recommending making it a stretch of road with one lane in each direction and a middle turn lane.

It is also recommending adding three potential pedestrian crossings on that stretch of West University, which will facilitate foot and cycle traffic to the western portion of the main UF campus. Currently, there are no crosswalks across University in that segment.

On the four-lane segment of 13th Street between Archer Road and Southwest 16th Avenue, HDR recommends shrinking the lane width from 12 feet to 10 feet and adding a median.

The engineering firm also suggested adding bike lane protection features that help to physically separate the existing bike lanes from the car lanes. Currently, that portion of 13th Street is marked to indicate the separation of vehicle and bike lanes, but there are no physical barriers such as posts, curbs or planters.

Mayor Lauren Poe listens during commission meeting

Several commissioners expressed support for converting existing bike lanes throughout the city to protected bike lanes.

“Paint is not protection,” Poe said.

The city currently does not have a way to fund making the suggested changes to University and 13th Street and will have to request money from the state.

“We’re going to need to lobby for money to get this done,” said Commissioner Harvey Ward.

Downtown Gainesville accidents plotted on map

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