05 November, 2009

Jacksonville International and the Worlds Ugliest Airport Entrance

"FLYING COYOTE UGLY"

Welcome to Jacksonville, third most populous city on America's east coast. As you leave our medium size airport, note it's beauty, the mosaic on the floor, or the incredible ceiling over the ticketing area. The airport itself is an art gallery, and there is special arts exhibit halls off of the main terminal, as you enjoy soft piano jazz from one of our local artists. Okay, so it's not Disney World, but it's REAL, cosmopolitan, and a beautiful way to start a business or pleasure trip to our city.
Exiting the terminal area, on board AIR JTA, or an automobile, is likewise a pleasant experience for the eyes. To the right a large freight terminal, and a bit farther down to your left, a welcoming hotel. Finally the one-way expressway, meets up with the opposing lanes, making the roadway seem more complete. Here and there yellow, and blackjack pine trees, dot the landscape around some of the large structures of our International Trade Zone.


So far so good, where the lanes merge looking east toward I-95

It's not until one passes that trade zone that you start to notice a change. Maybe the changing view is due to clutter, or perhaps it's age, but as it becomes a boulevard, and approaches Interstate 95, toward downtown, it has all of the charm of a western Oklahoma prairie highway, after a dust storm.
Heading up the ramp, this thing is obviously ancient, one can almost envision Spanish Conquistadores, marching up the road. Sparse vegetation could hardly pass for landscaping, and the black pasture mud puddles, could be crayfish farms.One might start to wonder, "Is this a welcome mat, or a 1960's K-Mart parking lot." All that is missing from this scene is the smell of stale popcorn. Isn't this a part of Florida? America's playground? Isn't this a major modern city? "Oh, I get it, it's all a joke and the GEICO Cavemen are about to show up as hitchers with backpacks and cardboard signs in hand."
A more typical Jacksonville night on the Northbank, Downtown

The Wright Flyer, a sculpture, but not in our forest

Leaving town after a business trip, football game, or vacation, is worse, even if one misses the confusion of Duval Road, and the actual Airport Exit. Finding the airport exit is a thrill in and of itself. A hairpin turn that would do justice to the roads in Yosemite, and you BETTER be going 25 mph, or you might meet John Muir, out in the trees. Trees? Yes, but not just trees, the center of that loop hasn't seen attention since 1963. The old expression, "don't let the door hit you in the nether regions as you go out," takes on a whole new meaning when trash, unmowed grass, weeds, and vines, seem to slap at your vehicle as you pass. Don't worry, at least the terminal is breathtaking, we designed it that way hoping you'd forget the coyote ugly interchange.

PARQUE DE LAS LUCES Medellín
Reaching for altitude? The Park of Light, Medellin, Colombia

We could play with our colored lights again
as in this scene in China

Come on Jacksonville, time to pull your heads out, this thing needs attention and it needs it now. Even if there are not funds to reconstruct the whole junction, perhaps coins could be found for pavement overlays, paint, a lawn service, and a few of those beautiful K-Mart garden center plants. That Yosemite like loop? I would imagine survival could be enhanced by brush cutting the whole area, even if you were to fly off into the forest, at least we could find your car. Where's our state-of-the-art signal lights, our signature NEON highlighting, and over I-95 and Duval - Airport Road, both locations could use our flood lighted J A C K S O N V I L L E, sign? Go for broke, bronze sculptures of famous local pilots, the first airmail plane, or scheduled airline service are cheap enough, why not? Anyone thinking our city doesn't have an aviation history, at least as cool as our railroad, and port heritage, I have a question for you. "Ever heard of the Blue Angels? Yeah, I thought so.

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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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