By Mike Phillips
The city commission and port executives and commissioners had a mutually respectful and mutually useful meeting Wednesday evening. And if you know the history of tensions between those two bodies, you know something newsworthy has happened.
The port is closing in on its new master plan, which will get a public showing and discussion at a Jan. 26 open house. The most notable takeaways in the emerging version are the deleted items:
- The idea of looping truck traffic in on Dade Street and out on Escambia Street is dead.
- The idea of expanding the dock is dead.
- The idea of dredging the federal channel deeper to accommodate large vessels is dead.
Some peace-making items — either new or more clearly spelled out — have been added:
- The port is firmly committed to not expanding its boundaries, and some out-of-port parcels in the historic district will be sold for residential construction.
- Although the port hopes to bring in more passenger cruise ships, it will focus on the small luxury market and will use existing tourism companies to take cruise visitors on pre-registered trips. Passengers going downtown will be transported to and from the dock along Front Street. Passengers going anywhere else will be taken down Dade Street and out on Eighth Street.
- The port will work with the city and private landowners along Front Street to protect and improve the waterfront.
- The port is committed to an improved system of moving trucks in and out of the port, including a goal of staging trucks remotely so they don’t stack up on Dade Street. And a goal of finding new opportunities of using rail, instead of truck, movement of cargo through the city.
After the Jan. 26 open house, the final master plan will be submitted to port commissioners in February and then, once accepted by those commissioners, will be submitted to Fernandina Beach commissioners.