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Commuter rail for First Coast picks up steam

JTA wants to know what you think about a commuter rail and its proposed train stations.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Imagine catching a train in Jacksonville that will take you to St. Augustine or commuting to work from Nocatee to the Baymeadows area on a train.

A commuter rail is a little closer to being a reality on the First Coast.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority will soon be starting a feasibility study for a commuter rail here.

JTA also wants to know what you think about it, so the agency will conduct public meetings next week.

Right now, freight trains run along the tracks that extend from Jacksonville to St. Augustine.  But the idea of adding a commuter rail to those tracks is picking up steam.

"There’s still a lot of work to be done," Jessica Shepler with JTA said. She noted the plan is "in the very early phases of conversations."

Credit: JTA
The latest map with possible stations for the First Coast Commuter Rail

The latest commuter rail configuration would connect Jacksonville to St. Augustine with about ten proposed stops. Including one by the Avenues Mall and another by County Road 210 in St. Johns County.  Some of those stations may not make the final cut. That’s where you come in. JTA wants to know what you think about the proposed station locations and "what the development around those locations and those stations might look like," Shepler said. 

Should there be businesses, residential areas, parks, and other transportation options in and out of those stations?

The most northern station could be the Prime Osborne Convention Center in downtown Jacksonville. It used to be a train station.   It’s right next to JTA’s main bus depot and headquarters.

JTA is considering population growth 20 – 30 years out.

"We’re going to have to have multiple ways to move people. Otherwise, we’re going continue to pile up vehicles on hour highways and create traffic jams," Shepler said. 

This commuter rail would mean a lot of coordination between three local governments: Duval County, St. Johns County, and the City of St. Augustine.   It would also require agreements with the train company that own the railroad track and uses it daily.

Shepler said, "We’ve visited other areas of the state that have similar agreements," including Sunrail in central Florida and Tri-rail in south Florida.

She said it could still be  5 – 10 years before you could hop aboard the First Coast Commuter Rail.

The first public meeting about the First Coast Commuter Rail is Tuesday, August 8th from 5 - 7 pm at the JTA headquarters at 100 LaVilla Center Drive in Jacksonville.

The second meeting is in St. Augustine on Wednesday, August 9th, starting at 4:30 at the St. Augustine City Hall.

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