Visit from U.S. transportation secretary announces grant, shows Jacksonville's deep connection

Major improvements coming to downtown transportation

On display on the steps of Jacksonville’s City Hall Friday were the deep connections between local leaders and Washington.

It’s those relationships that led in part, to a $25 million federal grant, known as a BUILD grant, to improve the River City’s transportation infrastructure.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao visited Jacksonville to personally and formally announce the award.

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“Jacksonville is leading the rest of the country because this is exactly the type of investment that the president envisioned,” said Chao.

According to Mayor Lenny Curry we’ll start to see the initial stages of work being done to the ramps near the shipyards as early as this summer.

“We’ve knocked down the old City Hall, we’re working on the Berkman, things are happening,” said Curry.

Action News Jax showed you last year how the Bay Street Innovation Corridor would benefit from this new grant, getting about $12.5 million for completion.

A significant component of that project is replaced the monorail, known as the Skyway, with autonomous vehicles.

“That monorail beam that you actually see our vehicles operating on, our plan is to take that beam out and create a roadway,” said JTA’s CEO Nat Ford.

The elevated Skyway lanes would remain, but ramps will be added so that the autonomous vehicles can maneuver on to the ground level roadways.

“The idea is to build it now because it is much more costly in the future after you have the problem,” said Ford.

The other $12.5 million will go toward the Urban Core Riverfront Revitalization project which will include installation of broadband conduits.

With the help of local governmental affairs firm, The Fiorentino Group, the city of Jacksonville was able to win a competitive grant that only 91 projects out of 851 received nationwide.

“You got to build relationships you got to spend time with the stakeholders and the decision-makers, building trust,” said Curry.

According to Ford, you’ll start seeing the beginning stages of work for the innovation corridor between two to three years.

The city won’t have to spend all the grant money until the year 2025.