From the Tallahassee Democrat
After another 10 days were allowed to gather public input on a project more than a decade in the making, the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency will vote on whether to approve plans for the Northeast Gateway — in time to tap into a state loan.
In all, only an additional 10 comments were gathered in the $70 million roadway project, but at the same time the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, the Capital City Chamber of Commerce, and the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce joined forces to host an informational webinar and neighborhood residents continue to voice concerns.
At least 279 written comments have been accepted as part of public engagement surrounding the project.
The IA, made up of all 12 city and county commissioners, is set to approve the Project Development and Environmental study (PD&E) in time to get the overview to the state in time to meet a June 30 deadline to apply for a State Infrastructure Bank Loan to help fund construction.
While there are still concerns over the environmental and conservation impacts and whether traffic congestion was accurately tallied, staff is warning that missing the deadline for the SIB loan or being directed to develop other alternatives to the project could have long-lasting impacts.
The same loan was not available last year and there is no guarantee it will be offered by the Florida Department of Transportation in 2022.
“If staff is directed to study additional alternatives through the PD&E process,” staff wrote in agenda materials, “the impacts range from transportation, financial, community, procedural, and potentially the loss of a new 1-10 interchange.”
The IA board meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Approval of the PD&E study will lead to the design phase and set the roadway’s alignment, selected in 2019.
Gateway project aims to ease traffic congestion in northeast Leon
The project has been proposed to alleviate traffic congestion on Thomasville, Centerville and Miccosukee roads and accommodate the growth expected in the coming decades after the expansion of the urban services area and incorporation of the Welaunee property.
The urban services area is the zone in which public services like sewer, utilities and transit are offered.
It was advance-funded in anticipation of 2020 sales tax revenue. If approved, it will run through the Welaunee property from Fleischmann Road in the Canopy at Welaunee development up to a roundabout at Bradfordville, Roberts and Centerville roads.
A five-arm roundabout design and location was selected earlier this year.
It’s been in the works since 2016 and is tied to plans for a new Interstate 10 exchange, a proposed Northeast Park and school entrances, as well as Tallahassee’s next phase of large-scale growth in the coming decades.
There have been attempts by a few members of the IA to stop the construction of the road all together, and a proposal at the board’s May meeting to pause for a year was met with push back.
Jeremy Cummings in public comment said not only did he oppose the roundabout, he would like to see the roadway project halted completely.
“I would prefer the alternative “No Build,” Cummings wrote. “There has been very poor communication by the government agencies and the hired firms performing the surveys and flagging of property around the proposed expansion.”
While there are members of the public not yet satisfied with the project, who wish to see it paused for more input or dismissed outright, others say it’s time to finalize the plan.
“I am in favor of this project. Though some are opposed because they want to maintain the rural nature of this area, the fact is the area is changing and the infrastructure needs to be updated accordingly,” wrote Gregory Preble of Preble Engineering in public comments ahead of Tuesday’s meeting. “Traffic congestion is a problem and will worsen if nothing is done.”
The Killearn Homeowners Association continues to advocate for traffic alleviation that doesn’t affect the quality of life there by providing a cut-through from Centerville Road to Thomasville Road.
The neighborhood fought to have the road terminate at Roberts Road instead of Shamrock Road and was successful in making an amendment to the project. It is supportive of approving the current study.
“There are many opposed to the Northeast Gateway for reasons including concerns about how the road promotes sprawl, that development interests are pushing the project timeline, and that transportation demands may change post-pandemic,” KHA said in a statement.
“While KHA is supportive of those concerns, we are hyper-focused on minimizing future traffic impacts to our neighborhood roads. As delay to the adoption of the Northeast Gateway PD&E may further jeopardize the agreements made thus far with Blueprint, we ask that you express support for voting to approve the PD&E Study.”
Contact Karl Etters at email@example.com or @KarlEtters on Twitter.