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Angry Residents Call Tree Removal Heartbreaking

Scenic Jacksonville joined with Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Schellenberg, Greenscape of Jacksonville, Inc., City Beautiful Jax, and the Mandarin Community Club, Inc. at a press conference on Friday, January 30, 2015, to call for action by FDOT to address concern arising from adverse impacts to the Jacksonville landscape and the Mandarin community and its residents.

Construction activities recently commenced in Jacksonville, Florida along a 5 mile stretch of I-295, just east of the Buckman Bridge and just west of I-95. The current six lanes are being expanded to ten travel lanes. FDOT has taken this action to add four toll lanes. The tolls from the expanded travel lanes are envisioned as a revenue source for FDOT in perpetuity.

As part of the construction activities for new toll lanes in Jacksonville’s Mandarin area, FDOT clear cut an unknown number of trees, possibly in the thousands and worth millions of dollars. The clear cut was from the edge of pavement all the way to the outer edge of the FDOT right-of-way. Mandarin Community Club president Susie Scott and others vigorously disputed FDOT’s conclusion that the resulting aesthetic effect was “not significant.”

To learn more about the evolving controversy over “managed” toll lanes in Florida, read the story by investigative reporter Eric Barton with the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, published in the Lakeland Ledger on September 13, 2014 (http://www.theledger.com/article/20140913/NEWS/140919679?p=1&tc=pg#).

Scenic Jacksonville, Inc., along with other civic and environmental organizations, has called for the following actions by FDOT: 1. To fully mitigate for the environmental damage and visual blight created by the toll project; and to plant trees to the maximum extent possible in the areas that have been cleared. 2. To ensure that the new sound walls will be green, including the inclusion of ficus vines and the presence of landscaping on both sides of the sound walls. 3. To ensure that all revenues and excess revenues from the toll scheme stay in Jacksonville, and to ensure that revenue mitigates for all environmental harm caused by any and all toll projects. 4. To ensure that landscaping plans are prepared and are available for review at the front end of all future toll projects, and to ensure that there is transparency at all stages. 5. To undertake a closer review of the need for toll lanes in perpetuity, to determine whether toll lanes are appropriate in Duval County, and to determine how managed toll lanes may serve to actually foster congestion in the unmanaged regular lanes.

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Cover photos courtesy of Bruce Lynn McCarty Photography