Gainesville and Alachua County declared a traffic violence crisis on Monday during a joint meeting, directing staff to create an educational campaign and work on an enforcement piece.
Mayor Harvey Ward brought up three pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in the past three weeks. While engineering has dominated past discussions, Ward said the city can only advocate for change along state roads like University Avenue, 13th Street and NW 39th Avenue.
However, the city and county could increase its education and enforcement components, he said.
"We have reached a point of emergency on our roadways,” Ward said. “Some folks are being hurt in parking lots, some on city streets, a lot more on county roads and even more on state roads.”
Commissioner Bryan Eastman made the motion to declare the crisis, directing the city manager's office to connect with the county, UF, Santa Fe and other stakeholders in an education campaign.
Both city and county commissioners also brought up enforcement and discussed how to leverage the law enforcement piece. While the city has direct control of its police department, Alachua County has a more distant role with the county sheriff.
The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) made a mirror motion with direction for a staff letter to Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. asking for the department’s assistance in the crisis.
The city is holding corridor walks this week to gather community input on possible changes to University Avenue and 13th Street.
On the agenda for the joint meeting, the commissions heard a presentation on Gainesville Regional Utilities’ (GRU) new recharge wetlands park.
The Gainesville commission greenlit the new 75-acre wetlands park—a smaller version of Sweetwater Wetlands Park—in February 2022. The new park would provide passive and active recreation off Parker Road (SW 122nd Street) near Myra Terwilliger Elementary School.
GRU engineer Rick Hutton explained that the parcel contained everything the utility needed: proximity to existing water lines, located on a high recharge area and for sale.
Once operating, GRU will pump millions of gallons of reclaimed water into the site to create artificial wetlands. The water will filter down, further reducing nitrogen and other contaminants levels, and recharge the Florida aquifer.
The park will filter 3 million gallons per day, but Hutton said the site will build up to 5 million gallons per day. The park will expand GRU’s water capacity while also providing a unique wetlands walk for citizens.
Ward noted that the park will sit fairly far outside the Gainesville city limits and called the project a great example of governments working together.
While GRU will maintain the wetlands portion, Alachua County will control the park aspect.
Jason Maurer, the county’s parks and open space director, said county staff plans to hold community meetings to see what type of facilities would be best.
Located right by Terwilliger, Maurer said safe connections will be made to the school and educational trips would be possible.
The cost for the park area could range around $1 million depending on inflation between now and when the project is ready, Maurer said. The new park would also add a small increase in the annual budget for maintenance.
GRU, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Suwannee River Water Management District will heft the price tag of everything else.
GRU paid $2 million for the property and the cost for building the park will run between $8 million and $10 million. However, the other two partners covered half the cost of the land and have almost finished negotiations to also pay for half of the construction costs, Hutton said.
Site plan approval will return to the BOCC, and Hutton said construction should start in 2024 or 2025 with completion by 2026.
A "Traffic Violence Crisis"?. Hardly! More of a smokescreen to distract from ripping off taxpayers by giving themselves a 90% raise for little to no work!
Have the police enforce existing laws governing speeding, running red lights and stop signs (cars/trucks, SCOOTERS, and bicycles), Jaywalking, illegal turns (cars/trucks and scooters), begging in the less than 6 foot medians! BACK UP THE POLICE WHEN THEY START TICKETING THE LAW BREAKERS instead of punishing them!
Any death is tragic! Many traffic related accidents can be avoided but not unless the Rules of the Road are obeyed by all.
I really don't give a Rats Patooie if the MSDN allows this comment or not! The truth is not something they want to read or see! Blame DeSantis or Trump for everything in Wokeville!
Will bicyclist be included in the education campaign? Will riders be educated about wearing light colored/reflective clothing and using lights? Will riders be required to OBEY the rules of the road?
It appears to me, while unsaid, that automobile drivers are being blamed for this "CRISIS"
Sounds like a lot of buzzwords coming from the politicians again.
What about this idea of creating 'artificial wetlands'? Aren't there already enough mosquitoes in the area? Any time politicians or 'scientists' get involved in messing around with natural processes, bad things happen to the innocent victims near the activities.
How long before we have the politicians declaring an 'artificial wetland' crisis?
Transferring that much new water into an area seems like a dangerous idea, and conjures up ideas of a sinkhole generating project.
Fatal City - Gainesville City Commissioners were very well informed of the terrible, deadly effects of their silly car-centric plan for Gainesville. Their plan shrank sidewalks, attracted traffic that overwhelmed bike lanes, voted for development of giant 12 story parking lots on sidewalks, encouraged intense commercial congestion on our deadliest intersections and sidewalks and dismissed the warnings and data presented by citizens at each meeting. Vote by vertical vote vote they have swept away 30 years of progress for bicycle and pedestrian safety advances and programs for which we were recognized as the top place for biking our nation. This commission and their recent predecessors, in close cooperation with unelected UF administrators who spent millions to re-plan our city, have managed to move us to from first best university town to one of the last. Visible evidence confirms that the primary duty of local governement, public safety, has been systematically sacrificed by city government for private gain.