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Expansion, sleek new cars, new river crossing, part of Skyway modernization recommendations

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- Sleek new cars, extensions to Five Points, the Sports Complex, and UF Health, and even a new bridge over the St. Johns River, are all part of a series of recommendations that an Advisory Council made to the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) board on what to do with the city's antiquated and little used Skyway system.

"The technology that we have today is obsolete and we are having trouble sustaining it," Nathaniel Ford, JTA Chief Executive Officer said at the beginning of a board workshop on the plan.

The vehicles used on the current Skyway system are nearing the end of their useful life and the city would need to spend as much as $80 million to replace them with similar vehicles.

The advisory group has been working since 2015 to make a recommendation on how to move forward on the system.

Community surveys showed support for adding service to the Sports Complex area, Riverside/Five Points/Brooklyn area and San Marco, according to Brad Thoburn, JTA's VP of Planning.

JTA VP of Planning Brad Thoburn presents Skyway modernization ideas to the JTA board.  PHOTO: First Coast News

Thoburn presented a vision of an "Ultimate Downtown Circular" expansion of the Skyway system that would bring the system to include all of the above areas, an expansion north to UF Health-Jacksonville, and a loop that would connect the Southbank to the Sports Complex and create a loop back to downtown.

The loop back downtown would include a new bridge crossing the St. Johns River for transit and pedestrians, but not for motor vehicle traffic.

Renderings of the proposed expansion and modernization of the JTA Skyway system  PHOTO: Jacksonville Transit Authority

The group recommends moving forward with extensions to Five Points and the Sports Complex first, with the first leg of that plan extending the system to the Brooklyn area.

The recommendations did not include any look at what the cost of the project would be, but did talk about tapping state and federal funding, as well as local funding options.

Thoburn said there are three different options on how to modernize the vehicles in the system, including using the same type of vehicles, replacing it with one without a guide, or use small "autonomous vehicles that are more flexible.

The advisory group is recommending that JTA prefer that "Autonomous Vehicle" plan, because it can run both on the current elevated tracks and potentially near ground level.

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