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Improvements To Northwest 8th Avenue Will Affect Pedestrians

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Northwest 8th Avenue was made for tires, not feet.

But Jill Guidera Brown, the director of policy and advocacy at Active Streets Alliance, hopes that a major face lift planned for the road will make it friendlier to pedestrians.

“The way that roads work best for all street users is when there is a separate and protected space for everybody,” Brown said. “That way everyone can be predictable and have his or her own designated space.”

The entire project is scheduled to be finished  in spring or summer of 2016. The three-part project, which is designed to  improve both the physical appearance of the road and the safety of walkers, will cover the area of Northwest 8th Avenue between Northwest 40th Drive and Northwest 6th Street.

“The biggest thing was to make the area safer for pedestrians as well as motorists,” said Chip Skinner, City of Gainesville’s Public Works Department marketing and communications supervisor.

The initial phase of the project, Section A, began Oct. 12 and will address changes in the area between Northwest 40th Drive and 34th Street. Work on Section A is expected to be completed by December.

This first phase will focus on resurfacing the street, causing daytime lane and sidewalk closures.

“Mainly a lot of the crashes were occurring near Westside Park,” Skinner said. “So we are trying to make the roadways safer, but it is also in need of repairs.”

There were 431 traffic deaths in Gainesville from 2003 to 2012, 43 of which were pedestrian deaths, according to data collected from Smart Growth America.

In a 12-month trial evaluation period hosted by the City of Gainesville from September 2013 to September 2014, 16 crashes occurred on Northwest 8th Avenue, with two cases leaving victims with incapacitating injuries.

Most of these accidents happened when pedestrians and motorists were turning on Northwest 34th Street headed towards Westwood Middle School or Westside Park. Other accident-prone areas included the intersections of Northwest 23rd Street and Northwest 31st Drive.

Skinner said the city will be upgrading ADA accessibility to the latest standard set by the federal government — expanding sidewalks, adding bike lanes, inserting flashing beacons at pedestrian crossings and creating pedestrian refuge areas.

The city will move onto the second phase of the project, named Section C, in November. Section C will focus on adding bicycle lanes and expanding existing sidewalks.

“I feel like it’s a good thing, especially if they are redoing the sidewalks,” said Lincoln Quake, a Gainesville cyclist. “If there were bike lanes, that would help a lot because I wouldn’t have to get around pedestrians.”

The cost of the Northwest 8th Avenue renovations is about $5.8 million. Funding is available through the City of Gainesville’s Capital Improvement Plan, which provided about $3.5 million for the roadway construction and $2.3 million for the Creek Crossing addition.

About Edwin Exaus

Edwin is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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