Hoping to remedy flooding around Jacksonville’s Hogans Creek, a nonprofit has landed federal money to study rebuilding downtown ramps to the Mathews Bridge that cover and constrict the waterway.
“We need to quit burying creeks,” said Groundwork Jacksonville CEO Kay Ehas, whose organization was allotted $600,000 for the study as part of a broader $5.7 million grant package from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for work affecting Hogans and McCoys creeks.
The design-study funds will be turned over to Florida’s Department of Transportation, said Ehas, who is working to convince the state agency to eventually fit the ramp replacement into its construction plans.
The agency operates from a five-year work plan that hasn’t mentioned the study before, but with the money awarded, “FDOT will work to have this proposed study be included,” spokesman Hampton Ray said by email.
The study could take about three years and would help engineers estimate costs and spot construction issues for work on the ramps that connect to one-way Union and State streets.
Close to 25,000 vehicles per day have historically traveled the ramps each way, according to state traffic counts.
The ramps cover the creek near Washington Street and Ehas said Springfield residents pointed out that “the expressway serves as a bottleneck.”
Hydrological models show removing that cap could reduce potential flooding nearby by two-and-a-half to three feet, she said.
“It acts essentially as a funnel,” said Todd Hollinghead, a Springfield resident for more than a decade and a former president of the neighborhood group Springfield Preservation and Revitalization, now speaking only for himself.
As the funnel fills up, pressure grows on drainage systems upstream, Hollinghead said, noting that the historic neighborhood has stormwater systems built generations ago that sometimes don’t operate that well even without problems downstream.
Although the neighborhood has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years, Hollinghead said flood-reduction would only add to the area’s desirability as a place to live.
“They’re already waiting in the wings to move in here,” he said of potential newcomers. “This is going to help speed that up, I think.”
Duval County’s “local mitigation strategy,” the title applied to a thick book of policies and project plans for managing risks from flooding and storm surge, already lists “improved conveyance” of Hogans Creek under the expressway as a leading project for reducing risk.
Groundwork Jacksonville, which is championing development of an Emerald Trail of publicly accessible green space in the city’s core, has been working with the city on plans for an ambitious restoration project to revitalize Hogans Creek.
Ehas said she wants the restoration and changes to the ramps to coincide, allowing the currently-covered strip of creek to be “daylighted” and incorporated into the creek’s makeover.