Looking west towards downtown and the Hart/Talleyrand Expressway viaduct from the remains of Metropolitan Park’s Kids Kampus in 2011.

In the process of conducting a study on the Hart Bridge ramps to Liberty Street, FDOT will host a public meeting on March 14 in cooperation with the City of Jacksonville’s efforts to demolish a portion of the elevated expressway that dates back to 1967. The project proposes the partial demolition of the ramp system from west of A. Phillip Randolph Boulevard to east of Festival Park Avenue and construction of a new configuration that diverts traffic from the elevated expressway to street level, providing direct access to the Sports and Entertainment Complex, the Talleyrand port area and Metropolitan Park. The remaining elevated segment from west of A. Philip Randolph Boulevard to Liberty Street would remain intact and open to vehicular travel.

Additional proposed improvements include the introduction of a shared use path for pedestrian and cyclist along the south side of Gator Bowl Boulevard between A. Philip Randolph Boulevard and Festival Park Avenue. A major initiative of Mayor Lenny Curry since 2016, the $39 million project, partially being funded with $12.5 million from the state and a $12.5 million Build grant, is said to be a necessary requirement for a $2.5 billion redevelopment plan by Jaguars owner Shad Khan around TIAA Bank Field and Metropolitan Park.

A conceptual rendering illustrating future infill development around the proposed Hart/Talleyrand Expressway removal project. (Iguana Investments)

This includes the potential relocation of JEA’s corporate headquarters from downtown and the development of an entertainment complex at Lot J that could possibly replace the Jacksonville Landing’s role in the city’s urban landscape. Long term plans could include the construction of a new convention center and hotel complex. The Jacksonville Transportation Authority also intends to retrofit and extend the Skyway into the area through the use of autonomous transit vehicles traveling at a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour.

Successful examples of expressway removal projects that have created new redevelopment opportunities exist in cities such as San Francisco, Boston, Milwaukee, Chattanooga and Portland. From a roadway design perspective, these projects also included a complete redesign of the multi-modal experience at ground level. However, the proposed Jacksonville plan proposes to shift expressway traffic to the existing four lane Gator Bowl Boulevard that currently parallels the viaduct at grade.

With the purpose of carrying truck traffic along the Tennessee River, the Riverfront Parkway was built as a four-lane freeway during the 1960s. However, Chattanooga’s industrial sector dramatically declined after its completion, making it become a physical barrier with no purpose for dividing the city’s downtown from the riverfront. In 2004, as a key component of Chattanooga’s 21st Century Riverfront Plan, the reconstruction of Riverfront Parkway into an urban boulevard and riverfront green space was completed.

Intended to connect the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges along the San Francisco waterfront, the Embarcadero Freeway was completed in 1959, one mile short of the Golden Gate Bridge due to the city’s “Freeway Revolt”. Like Jacksonville’s Hart Bridge Expressway, the elevated highway severed a section of the city’s core from its urban waterfront. At its height, the Embarcadero carried more than 60,000 vehicles per day. In 1991, it was demolished after suffering significant structural damage as a result of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. In its place, a “complete street” known as the Embarcadero was built as a six-lane, palm-lined boulevard with a pedestrian promenade and a median-based vintage streetcar line.

The public meeting for citizens to review and comment on proposed improvements will be held on Thursday, March 14 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the FDOT Urban Office Training Center, 2198 Edison Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32204. Assuming there are no delays, the demolition of the Hart Bridge ramps could be under way as early as 2020.

Here’s a closer look at the proposed improvements to the Hart/Talleyrand Expressway project.

A view of the overall bridge removal and redevelopment plan (City of Jacksonville)

Next Page: Proposed Hart/Talleyrand Expressway Improvements