Tallahassee chambers: ‘No’ vote on Northeast Gateway would subvert will of the people | Opinion

From the Tallahassee Democrat

When two-thirds of voters support something, it should get done. When you add to that support a diverse coalition of business organizations and the most engaged homeowners association in town, it’s time to get it done now.

City and county commissioners need to move forward Tuesday afternoon with the Northeast Gateway project. This project achieves two important goals – it protects two of Tallahassee’s most precious canopy roads and it drives job growth. That job growth is the best, most proven antidote to the chronic crime, poverty and other challenges that have plagued our community for far too long.

A “no” vote would subvert the will of Leon County voters and would kill hundreds – even thousands – of jobs, while leaving our canopy roads vulnerable to increased traffic and pollution.

One way to disguise opposition is to call it “slow” instead of “no.” But in this case, slow means no.

Indeed, this project has hardly been rushed. It was a part of a ballot initiative approved seven years ago in the wake of 23 sales tax committee meetings and 19 educational meetings after the project list was approved. In the last two years, there have been another 16 community meetings. The informational website for the proposal won a national award. After all that, in 2014, a whopping 65% of voters supported the measure – 67,922 votes.

The case for this project has already been made and was approved by the city and county commissions, but if you need to be re-convinced, here are the most compelling reasons:

  • The building of this road will create 650 jobs, according to independent research conducted by FSU. The economic activity spurred by the Northeast Gateway will generate/support another 18,500 jobs.
  • This new corridor will provide much-needed relief for Centerville and Miccosukee roads. This is borne out by the studies and by sheer common sense – two roads carry less traffic per road than one. This will also help the trees of these corridors absorb less pollution.
  • “Slow means no” jeopardizes the vital new I-10 interchange that would accompany this project in the future. Without this project, the intersection of I-10 and Thomasville Road would be forced to handle all the new traffic from the northeast.
  • Commuters will save a collective $4.6 million over the next 24 years from shorter commutes, which will also help the environment.
  • Killearn Estates residents will see a significant decrease in miles traveled.
  • This plan includes alternative ways to drop off children at Montford and Roberts schools, further easing traffic on Centerville Road.
  • Further delays will essentially kill the Northeast Park, which so many residents of that area have been asking for.
  • The Northeast Gateway project will open opportunities for new housing. Currently, our community faces a severe shortage of homes and is driving up the median price of homes and rentals.

Planners have gone to great pains to protect the environment and research historic and cultural issues that might be affected by the project; in fact, one previously unknown African American cemetery was discovered and the route of the road was changed to protect it.

We believe it is clear what positive impacts major infrastructure projects from Blueprint have provided (Cascades Park and private investments job opportunities). It is time for city and county commissioners to, once and for all, move forward with this balanced, environmentally friendly, job-creating project.