18 March, 2009

What if Amtrak Catches Jacksonville with it's Terminal Down?


Bringing back the last great station in the Southeast

In a great update from the Treasure Coast Palm, it appears that the long awaited Amtrak - Florida East Coast Route might be rolling through the city while we're still doing studies of our studies. The Terminal downtown (now called the Prime Osbourne Convention Center) sits empty except for the occasional boat, gun or home show. Just under 80,000 Square Feet of new space that could be recycled into a condensed multi-modal Terminal. The great part of this idea is that we wouldn't touch a single wall of the original Head House Station, leaving it to reopen for Passengers.

Here's the run on the progress with the FEC RY:


This scene would remain the same with either plan

Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council to request stimulus money for passenger train service
By Jim Turner,
March 17, 2009

Treasure Coast leaders hope to get passenger train service back on the Florida East Coast rails with federal economic stimulus money.
The Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council intends to ask Gov. Charlie Crist and Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Kopelousos, along with the area’s Legislative and Congressional delegations, to support efforts to use about $100 million in federal relief money for Amtrak to bring passenger service back to the FEC tracks between Jacksonville and Miami.
“It’s not a new idea, but it’s still a good one,” said Mike Busha, executive director of the planning council. “We’re trying to expand people’s options for getting around without having to spend so much money or energy.”
Amtrak and the FEC were close to a deal to put the rail service through the Treasure Coast in 2002, with stations to sprout up in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties. But the proposal was quashed at the time because of questions over Amtrak spending and ridership.
But as gas prices rose the past two years, the service’s budget was doubled. Earlier this year, $8 billion in stimulus money was announced for developing new high-speed rail service nationwide, and Vice President Joe Biden on Friday announced that $1.3 billion in additional stimulus money would go to the government-owned service.
Included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act announced by Biden is $10.5 million to construct a new station for the Auto Train in Sanford.
State DOT Planning and Policy Analysis Administrator David Lee said Florida officials are awaiting the federal government to provide criteria for the high-speed corridor projects.
Busha said returning passenger service to the tracks along the eastern side of the Treasure Coast would improve transportation in the region, which translates into better business opportunities and improved quality of living.
“It’s building a mobile network, very attractive, low-stress, low-energy transportation system,” he said. “It’s very attractive to investors when they see a region that has all its basis covered, not just by the private automobile.”
Vero Beach, Fort Pierce and Stuart were all once stops on the line put down by Henry Flagler in the 1890s and local leaders believe the downtown in each area could be used for new stations.
But the Treasure Coast isn’t the only area seeking money for passenger rail service.
Led by state Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, supporters of the $1.2 billion, 61-mile commuter rail project to run from DeLand in Volusia County through downtown Orlando to Poinciana in Osceola, will have a midday rally Wednesday in Tallahassee.
Amtrak’s current route north goes from Miami to West Palm Beach before branching west to Okeechobee, over to the Orlando area and then moving back east to Jacksonville, where the route mostly hugs the East Coast through New York City, stopping in Portland, Maine.
Treasure Coast passenger rail history
• 1892-94: Rail service was extended south from Daytona, running along the Indian River, by Henry Flagler.
• 1968: Passenger service was discontinued on the Florida East Coast tracks because of labor unrest.
• The plan to expand passenger rail service using the FEC rail lines was first proposed in 1994 and revived in 2000. There was talk about expanding to the Treasure Coast by 2003.
• Negotiations between Amtrak and the Florida Department of Transportation stalled in 2002 after the government said the rail company no longer could add new routes.
• 2008: Local officials asked Gov. Charlie Crist and Congressional representatives to ask Amtrak to include the Treasure Coast in a study of reintroducing passenger service on the FEC lines between West Palm Beach and Miami.


Facing the former ticket counters in the empty Head House "Convention Center".


The Front of the JTC as engineered by JTA and FDOT note that the tracks on the far left would be lowered to creek level, someone missed the story of the two previous stations that were flooded out. Almost 400,000 Cu Yd's of fill and "they" want to remove it?

So it's getting close to "put up"or "shut up" time.

If we keep the "Prime Osbourne Center" where it is, our Transportation Center will forever be crippled. It's the railroad and bus equal to building a new fast food restaurant at the junction of runway 4L 22 R and 9L 27 R at Chicago O'Hara International Airport.

The City of Jacksonville, has just recently started making moves to enlarge the Convention Center, and thankfully most of these ideas get it out of the surface Transportation Center of Florida. Se la vie.



The State and JTA rendering with a scattered Transportation "Center" built around a useless Convention Center. When we looked at a redesign we didn't change a single element.

Everything done up to this point is planned around that poorly located, too small to compete, albatross of a Convention Center. So the resulting drawings with their several elements have been scattered over a 5 block area of La Villa in Downtown Jacksonville. IF we follow any of these plans which build around the historic train Terminal, we are going to build America's most sprawled "center"; a place where passengers regularly drag their bags 3 blocks up the hill.

Ennis Davis, an Urban Planner, and myself sat down at the dinner table and I laid out the concept. What if we move the Convention Center and use the same design plans and elements that the City and State have already done? What if we relocated those buildings into a dense, compact Transportation Village? Ennis thought it was a pretty cool idea and went to work putting the parts together.

The new plan doesn't touch a single plot of new ground North of the Depot. It would remove about 2/3 of the new exhibition hall behind the station and recycle the remaining part into offices and Intercity Bus Station. Everything else fits neatly on the grounds between the Depot and the Freeway to the West. The only other change which is going to be required no matter what happens, is the new Lee Street viaduct will have to be re-rebuilt to obtain clearance for 8 to 12 through tracks, hopefully without removing another spade of fill dirt.


The Layout Above is the plan concieved by Robert Mann and Drawn in Rendering by Ennis Davis

Skyway, photographed from Jacksonville Terminal, it's a snap to get downtown or to the hotels.

So here comes Amtrak and the FEC Ry, the Governor, The Treasure Coast, The Gold Coast and the whole Florida delegation... Where the heck is Jacksonville? We should be a the head of this pack as we stand the gain the most from it. It's do it or lose it time.
Photos: JTA, Ennis Davis, Metro-Jacksonville.com, Robert Mann

1 comment:

  1. This is Great news of course!!! Please post something if you see any progress on reconnecting Jacksonville and New Orleans.



The arguments rage to this date, "Should have never been built," "waste of taxpayer money," "Doesn't go anywhere," "Nobody rides it..." etc. Bottom line is we have it, and it is finally showing signs of life. Simple extensions to the Stadium, San Marco, and the area of Blue Cross in North Riverside would turn this little train around. Addition of Park and Ride garages and multimodal transit terminals at the end points would bring on the crowds. The video must have been shot on a Sunday Morning, as downtown is certainly as packed with life as any other major City on weekdays. Jacksonville is a city of Bikes, joggers, walkers, buses and cars, one almost wonders how the photographer managed to find this quiet moment.

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