City accepts $8M grant to make University Avenue safer

Gainesville city commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to accept an $8 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration for funding the University Avenue Complete Streets project. Gainesville is one of only three communities in Florida to receive the grant, and is required to match the grant with $2 million, the funding for which will come from the campus development plan and the Gainesville Community Reinvestment Area allocations, according to City Manager Cynthia Curry.“With this we move toward making all the problem areas on University Avenue safer,” Mayor Harvey Ward said. “This is a community-wide opportunity to make a better, safer, more usable street for everybody and I think that’s a big deal.”More:Gainesville receives $8M from federal government to make University Avenue more pedestrian friendlyMore:Elimination of Gainesville bus routes causes concern for those who use them mostThe University Avenue redesign includes over 4 miles of the roadway and seeks to slow traffic, narrow lanes, add raised crosswalks and resurface and restripe the road.In January, Gainesville and Alachua County commissioners joined together to promote traffic safety, calling it a “traffic violence crisis” and vowing to put funding into a new public education campaign. The effort comes at a time when Gainesville has seen an uptick in vehicles hitting and killing pedestrians and bicyclists over the past year.“We’re very excited about this grant. It will give an opportunity for us to really further the city’s Vision Zero initiatives,” said Deborah Leistener, a public works planning manager with Gainesville’s transportation department. “We are working closely with the Florida Department of Transportation and the University of Florida, and this grant is really a recognition of that effort.” University Avenue’s crash rate is more than triple the statewide average, according to a city press release. The road has been the site of 70 pedestrian accidents in the past five years, including seven fatalities, according to traffic data.“It really is a lot of money and I’m thrilled that the city has been able to do this but I know that these conversations started years ago, sometimes punctuated by unfortunate accidents resulting in harm and death,” Commissioner Casey Willits said. “So I’m really excited that we’re here.”

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