Center Medians Could Be Removed if New Signage Dosen’t Slow Main Street Traffic Mishaps

By Jeremy Coumbes on August 15, 2023 at 11:36am

A recent traffic incident has Jacksonville city leaders considering possible changes in the downtown area.

Last week, an out-of-state semi-truck became stuck after it struck a concrete post and section of fencing while trying to turn north from the square onto North Main Street. The truck also drove up onto the center median.

During the Jacksonville City Council meeting last night, Mayor Andy Ezard brought up the center medians under new business for discussion by the council. Since the downtown was reopened to traffic more than ten years ago, there have been a number of incidents, especially with semi-trucks at the medians.

Superintendent of City Hall Plaza & Maintenance, John Green says he has had recent discussions with the Mayor and Streets Superintendent Les Ballenger about the issues with semi-trucks trying to navigate the North and South Main Street entrances to the square.

He says the consensus so far has been to increase the amount of signage warning semi-truck drivers that Main Street through the downtown square is not a through truck route. “We’re looking into doing a little more signage and taking it a little further out to the south and the north so the trucks have more of a warning, more of a head up.

Right now it’s too close to the square, so once you get close, they are committed and there’s no turning them around at that point. Even though it’s not a truck route, their GPSs send them that way, so we’re going to try and do better signage that’s a little bigger, and a little further out to give them more of a heads up.”

City officials say once semi-trucks pass Morton Avenue, they have no choice but to continue downtown which is not a through truck route.

Green says the plan would be to include placing the additional signs farther down North and South Main including at the Interstate 72 interchange with Main Street. He says the current sign is near Morton Avenue and once a semi crosses Morton heading north, there is virtually no place to reroute them.

Another suggestion Mayor Ezard said he wanted the council to consider in the coming weeks is if the center medians need to be removed. Green says as pleasing as the medians are ascetically, they have become a common hazard as shipping traffic needs to be able to flow through town.

It’s not easy. They’ve got to get from one end of town to the other. But with these islands, I’m proposing to possibly move, and that’s going to have to be up to the council. It’s just that the road is not wide enough for them.

They look very nice on the architectural end of it, but it’s not practical, the road is just not wide enough. Fire trucks, buses, you and I in a pickup truck and a trailer, let alone a semi that gets up there, which they’re not supposed to be, but they get up there and things happen.”

Green told the Council last week’s incident caused approximately $14,000 worth of damage. He said luckily the semi-truck owner’s insurance will be covering the cost, but there have been other instances when the vehicle got away and the city was left stuck paying the bill.

After a brief discussion without official action, the council members were in favor of seeing if the placement of additional warning signs would have any effect on the issue and moving the idea to committee for further discussion.