Gainesville-UF strategic partnership priority: Complete 13th Street.
Yes, I know, 13th Street already looks finished. It cuts straight through town, north-to-south, along U.S. 441.
But that doesn’t make it a “complete street.”
Complete streets “are for everyone,” argues the urban planning group Smart Growth America. They are “designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities.”
If you think that’s already mission accomplished on 13th, just try navigating a wheel chair on the miserable excuse for a sidewalk between NW 3rd place and NW 4th lane…not to mention that stretch where the sidewalk simply vanishes just north of Museum Road.
Mostly 13th Street is a traffic funnel. Engineered to near interstate highway standards its wide multiple lanes facilitate the fast movement of cars and trucks at the expense of public safety. It is no coincidence that some of Gainesville’s most dangerous intersections – at Williston and Archer roads and University Avenue, to name three – are on 13th.
It is especially egregious that Gainesville’s arguably most bike-ped hostile corridor is the stretch of 13th that defines UF’s eastern border – UF harboring the city’s single largest concentration of walkers, cyclists, bus riders and scooterists.
And UF strategic plan envisions a campus that is even less car dependent than it is now. That includes making its northeast quadrant car free and running shuttles so commuters can leave their cars on the city’s outskirts.
“I’m dismayed that we have to spend the money we do on parking garages,” UF CEO Charlie Lane mused recently. “In 20 years we may be asking ‘what in the world were we thinking?'”
It’s time to ask that question right now in regard to 13th street. And if there is a single quality of life improvement project that should unite city and campus in mutual interest it is turning the length of 13th into a complete street and all that the term implies.
We know how to do it. Narrower traffic lanes, on-street bicycle lanes, better sidewalks and other “traffic calming” design standards will slow cars, save lives and, not coincidently, foster a more business friendly environment along the length of Gainesville’s transportation spine.
Reinventing 13th Street by design is a perfect project on which to expand and capitalize upon the nascent partnership between the city, UF’s Transportation Institute and the state. There’s more to the urban mobility revolution than autonomous shuttles.
And reimagining 13th starts now. On October 15th the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization will sponsor is a public workshop to solicit suggestions about how to make 13th “a safe and efficient corridor for all modes of travel.” Transforming 13th is second on the MTPO’s list of priority projects. The workshop will be held at UF’s Innovation Hub, at 747 SW 2nd Ave., from 6 to 8 p.m.
Ultimately, any MTPO recommendations need state Department of Transportation approval. But in recent years even the historically car-centric FDOT has been warming to the notion of complete streets for the sake of public safety.
“Creating Complete Streets means transportation agencies must change their approach to community roads,” says Smart Growth America, “This means that every transportation project will make the street network better and safer for drivers, transit users, pedestrians, and bicyclists—making your town a better place to live.”
It’s long past time to make completing 13th Street a priority on the town-gown list of things to do.
(Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun. Read his blog at floridavelocipede.com)