By RON LITTLEPAGE, The Times-Union
A major brouhaha is brewing on the Northside.
You probably have been hearing the good things about Jaxport landing two major Asian shipping lines - the potential for 50,000 new jobs and a $3 billion economic impact.
While applauding that, a growing constituency on the Northside is worrying about something else - a traffic nightmare.
A representative of the Northside Civic Association predicts "a crisis beyond anything that has happened in Jacksonville."
Jaxport officials, as you might imagine, disagree.
Here's the problem:
By 2020, as many as 8,500 big-rig trucks a day may be leaving the port carrying the goods brought in by the Asian lines.
Those trucks will be traveling along roads such as Heckscher Drive and Florida 9A that aren't designed to handle the additional load.
Rick Ferrin, Jaxport's executive director, insisted during a meeting with the Times-Union editorial board that the port is on top of the situation.
He said that the increase in truck traffic will come over a number of years and that the port is spending $12 million to make intersection improvements in the Heckscher, 9A and New Berlin Road area to handle the initial rush.
Long-term solutions, Ferrin said, could include adding trucks-only ramps and lanes to 9A, and building a new rail yard to help handle the port cargo.
Former City Council members Warren Alvarez and Max Leggett, both of whom represented the Northside, also met with the Times-Union editorial board.
They see the trucks coming with very little real planning to handle the traffic. They see another real problem - money.
Ferrin said Jaxport isn't in the business of building roads, but he thinks the state and federal governments will provide the needed funding.
Alvarez and Leggett think that's living in a dream world, considering the state of the state's budget. After all, the Legislature is already looking at taking road construction money to pay for other critical services because of the budget shortfall.
I don't know who is right in this debate, but I know that solid plans need to be put in place to make the necessary transportation improvements and the money found to pay for them.
And that needs to be done now. If not, the nightmare the Northside Civic Association fears very well could become reality.
In February, Mayor John Peyton listed areas he wants to focus on during the remainder of his administration.
One of them was "growing economic opportunity and jobs throughout the city."
The expansion at Jaxport will be a big part of that. Peyton needs to step in and make sure it's done correctly.