Friday, April 23

Where Should Our Tunnels Go, Jacksonville? Part 1 - St. Johns Town Center

I was reading that parts of South Florida are getting excited about Elon Musk's Boring Company and its promises of being able to build cheap tunnels. While I'm not sure I totally buy into the dream, I also wasn't sure about electric cars or sending millionaires to tour outer space, so perhaps Musk will come through and build tunnels on the cheap. Or else he'll promise that and then jack up the prices like the Tesla Roof fiasco. But let's just assume the Boring Company can build cheap tunnels. Where should ours be in Jacksonville?

St. Johns Town Center
As the recipient of New Jax Witty's Worst Design Award, the St. Johns Town Center could use some help, maybe using tunnels. St. Johns Bluff stupidly ends into Town Center Parkway, which stupidly ends into Gate Parkway, which stupidly meanders all around the Southside. In planning classes I took, the technical term is "clusterf***." And tunnels probably won't fix it because it was just so poorly designed. But why not try, right? 

Here's one idea: tunnel St. Johns Bluff into the Dick's Sporting Goods parking lot where it can meet up with Big Island Drive (where it stupidly meanders N/S after starting E/W). Now you have 25% of the traffic diverting right into the heart of the Town Center. Then, tunnel under the JTB and come up where the FBI building is at (big surprise) Gate Parkway. Instead of everyone playing around on Town Center Parkway and Gate Parkway, they just drive underground to get to Nordstrom and Dillard's and whatnot. That's the yellow tunnel in the image above.

If you really want the whole thing to make sense, you then build a road (call it St. Johns Bluff, perhaps) straight down from the tunnel along the high power lines until it hits Baymeadows. Wait, hit reverse for a second. Am I suggesting a North/South road should travel from the St. Johns River all the way down to Baymeadows (maybe even the 295) uninterrupted? Sacrilege! It should dead end or curve into oblivion, based on general rules for Jax right now. But really, building straight roads that go through to other straight roads actually works sometimes. Or all of the time. A double-tunnel could do what planners of the Town Center decided not to do (make sense). 

The next phase of tunneling, since the first one worked so well, would be dedicated exit (from the Town Center) tunnels, maybe along that same area near the Uptown Funk Apartments (which probably would get torn down for the greater good). Direct exits to the 295/9B and the JTB, tunneled under the interchange. So instead of being stuck in traffic for 30 minutes to get to the on ramp after stuffing yourself at Maggiano's, you just hop on over to the JTB East tunnel and head to your beachfront home in Ponte Vedra. Those are the pink and orange tunnels.

Another option is to tunnel from the St. Johns Town Center over to the new neighborhood that is stupidly planned to dead end Kernan (south of the JTB) rather than have it go through to (you guessed it) Gate Parkway where it becomes Baymeadows. I'm not lying, Gate Parkway goes East-Westish until it crosses the 295 and then hits Baymeadows which has turned from a solid East-West road into a solid North-South road for no other reason than to make me angry. Anyhow, if Kernan is not linked to Gatemeadows, someone seriously needs to go to jail. And when I say linked, I mean Kernan continues north-south along the edge of all civilization (yes, all the way to Hwy 1) and Gate comes east to meet it, not that Kernan just meanders over to Gate. Does anyone out there understand the purpose of roads? 

Sorry about the rant. We're talking tunnels here. Back to tunnels to fix bad road decisions. Maybe a tunnel from Town Center Parkway where it ends into Gate Parkway over to Southside Boulevard.  That's the blue tunnel in the photo. 

Just some ideas, folks, but not bad ideas if tunneling does end up being cheaper than building new roads. I'd prefer tunnels with conveyor belts and built-in carwashes. That way, no one breaks down and gets stuck, and your car gets washed. But I bet Elon Musk hasn't even thought of the tunnel carwash yet. 

As an added bonus, let's look at the way the Town Center should have been designed when it comes to (major) roads. The image includes several new main roads that connect to one another, and then there would also be other roads that connect to those roads, kind of like an old downtown, which I'm pretty sure was the idea behind a town center, right? Go ahead and call all four of the East-West roads Gate Parkway if you want. They all would have connected Kernan to St. Johns Bluff to Southside, just like Beach does and Baymeadows should. I know someone out there made this exact design when the Town Center was being considered, but curves and dead-ends somehow won the day.

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