There is no stopping JTA’s incredible ability to waste hundreds of millions of dollars on eco pipe dreams. You’ll remember Eye On Jacksonville’s in-depth reporting back in October shedding light on JTA’s ridiculous plan to transform the Skyway into the $400 million-dollar Ultimate Urban Circulator.
This month the JTA board reached a multimillion-dollar agreement with the design firm, HNTB to help plan the second phase of the authority’s embarrassing taxpayer funded boondoggle.
JTA is giving HNTB $6.5 million dollars in tax revenue siphoned from our recently raised gas tax, to figure out how to get rubber-tire autonomous vehicles, which the city cannot purchase or legally manufacture, to travel along a rebuilt Skyway track and surface streets throughout downtown Jacksonville.
According to JTA’s CEO Nat Ford, the authority unanimously approved the contract after a conversation with “rough estimates – very rough estimates.”
Isn’t it great when overpaid bureaucrats spend millions of other people’s money on political eco pet projects based off “very rough estimates”?
This influx of cash is for the second phase of the U2C. The authority just started construction on phase one…the $65.6 million dollar Bay Street Innovation Corridor.
The great news about the second phase is that JTA hasn’t even come up with a solid design yet. It will take more than a year for HNTB to bring the design plans only to the 30% mark. And that is good enough for government work.
Alongside robot toaster vans putzing down Bay Street, JTA is using $14 million in federal funding plus some of that $6 million from our bank accounts, to buy six electric buses to add to the congestion. JTA CEO Nat Ford says the city is moving to electric buses or alternative fuel buses “at some point.” So, we might as well spend millions trying to figure out where to put charging stations just in case. Ford says JTA could “get all of this done at the same time so what we convert to serve multiple purposes and be future proof in a lot of ways.”
Part of that futureproofing will be owed to U2C’s budget-friendly planning. JTA claims autonomous vehicles are the best way to reach as many people as possible because they are the least expensive option.
Democrat Councilman Jimmy Peluso isn’t convinced. He tells First Coast News, “to a degree, they’re not wrong, that this is probably the cheapest type of mass transit you could do. But you know, typical Jacksonville fashion, you go with the cheapest method, you get the cheapest results. And that’s really what I am concerned about.”
Our Democrat councilman and I can agree on one thing. It costs a lot of money to be cheap.
Peluso continues, “I am afraid it is going to be like the Skyway 2.0. A system that we don’t really fall in love with and then we waste a lot of money on it and then it just goes by the wayside.”
I feel you, Jimmy. And so does the public. One comment linked to a local news station’s post, calls the U2C a “money grubbing scam.”
Another comment states the obvious, to which JTA is oblivious. The comment reads: “The cardinal rule of mass transit is that it goes from where people live to where they work or play. Current Skyway does neither – any redesign has to fix that.”
Spoiler alert, the redesign doesn’t. But it might. One day. In the very distant future.
By that point, JTA and City Council will have spent more than $400 million dollars connecting no one to nowhere, wondering how they got it so spectacularly wrong… again.