During a special Blueprint IA meeting on Tuesday elected officials from the Leon County Commission and the Tallahassee City Commission voted 9-3 to move forward with the Northeast Gateway project.
The Northeast Gateway will begin at Fleischmann Road – at the entrance to the Canopy development – and move through Welaunee plantation terminating at the intersection of Roberts Road and Centerville Road.
After two years of meetings and agreements, the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency had previously voted to move forward with the project. However, Tuesday’s meeting was scheduled after concerns were raised by property owners impacted by the project.
During the pubic discussion section of the meeting, approximately 20 speakers addressed officials. The speakers included property owners, neighborhood associations, and business groups.
After the speakers, the Blueprint staff made a presentation and answered questions.
In the end, those elected officials that supported the project based their vote on the traffic and economic development benefits. These officials included Mayor John Dailey, Tallahassee City Commissioners Dianne Williams-Cox and Curtis Richardson and Leon County Commissioners Nick Maddox, Jimbo Jackson, Rick Minor, Kristen Dozier, Brian Welch, and Carolyn Cummings.
Commissioner Jimbo Jackson, noting the importance of economic development, said that “jobs can make a difference for a generation.”
Commissioner Carolyn Cummings said “I can see jobs will be generated by this project and we have to grow to support our citizens.”
Commissioner Brian Welch said he sees the traffic problems around the schools on a daily basis and noted the area “needs traffic relief now.”
Those that opposed the project – City Commissioners Jeremy Matlow and Jack Porter and Leon County Commissioners Bill Proctor – argued that not enough time was provided to consider alternatives and the funds for the project should be allocated to other Blueprint projects.
Commissioner Jeremy Matlow made a motion to delay the project. Matlow stated he believed the road should be built as needed, not for development that is years in the future. He also said other roads, like Orange Avenue and Tharpe Road, need help now.
City Commissioner Jack Porter supported the motion to delay the project and she was critical of the process. She said there was no discussion of alternatives and “there is a way we can make this better.”
Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor also supported the motion and argued that there was no comprehensive transportation evaluation and no look at the cost of widening Centerville Road or Miccosukee Road.
Matlow’s motion to delay the project failed 9-3.
Staff analysis indicated that on opening day, the project will alleviate existing congestion on roadway networks within northeast Tallahassee, such as US 319 (Thomasville Road) and US 90 (Mahan Drive).
The project will also provide an alternative route for existing users of Centerville and Miccosukee Roads (two scenic roadways that are locally protected and designated as Canopy Roads) and help accommodate future growth within the Urban Services Area.
Also, the new road will provide another entrance to Montford Middle School and Roberts Elementary School. This new entrance will relieve the current traffic congestion problems present at Pimlico and Centerville Road.
A third party academic economic study by Florida State University’s Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis (CEFA) provided estimates of the economic benefits of the project.
The estimates show that the project, under a medium density development scenario, would generate $5.2 billion in economic output which includes 44,000 jobs and $2 billion in income or wages over the next 20 years.
In addition, the analysis indicated that commuters will save a collective $4.6 million over the next 24 years from shorter commutes.
Business groups argued that the project will open up opportunities for new housing, which is important since Leon County faces a shortage of homes that is driving up prices.
With the vote supporting the project, the Northeast Gateway continues on schedule towards construction in 2023.