Despite major turnover in the Duval County legislative delegation, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s priorities are largely unchanged.
Money for public safety. Money for infrastructure, such as the city’s ongoing septic tank removal project.
And one big ask: Curry wants $50 million in state money for Hart Expressway ramp modifications, noting the current setup has outmoded designs and creates public safety issues.
“The ramps were originally designed to bypass the industrialized waterfront,” Curry said, a purpose outmoded in the half-century since the original construction.
Curry wants “to knock the [current] ramp down,” and create a traffic flow onto Bay Street.
“A public safety issue, a traffic flow issue, a downtown in-and-out issue also,” Curry said.
In the gaggle after his brief remarks, Curry noted more than once the Hart Expressway is a state road and a “relic of the past.”
“When this ramp was built,” Curry noted, “there was no Bay Street.”
Now, the ramp is “outdated.”
“It served its purpose,” Curry said, “but it’s time to move on.”
A benefit of the reconfiguration: a reduction of traffic in the area of the stadium, which is logjammed during many early-season Jaguars games, as well as during high-profile college games.
With the amphitheater expected to be completed in 2017, there is that factor to consider also.
Curry is ready to move forward, wanting this to be a priority in the current budget.
“We send money to Tallahassee,” Curry said, and he and his team want to “work with the state to get it back.”
There are still uncertainties related to the project, such as the cost, the timeframe to complete once funded, and how much traffic congestion will be ameliorated.
What is a certainty though: the Duval delegation will have some help, via lobbyists, as was the case during the successful session of 2016.
“Expect to see us having folks represent our interests in Tallahassee,” Curry said.
Those familiar with the lobbying effort expect it to look like it did last session, which saw tremendous ROI for the city’s $150,000 investment in Fiorentino Group, Southern Strategy Group, and Ballard Partners.
One other Jacksonville advantage: three Northeast Florida senators will be on the Appropriations Committee.
In the House, however, there is a lack of experience among the delegation that may preclude similar leverage, in what already is a more conservative body.