Blueprint agency approves next phase for Northeast Gateway project

Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 10:40 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A major infrastructure project for Northeast Leon County earned the approval of the Blueprint agency Tuesday night, despite a public comment period filled with residents speaking out against the plan.

A packed City Council chamber watched the three-hour meeting unfold. After the one-hour public comment session, a lengthy debate between city and county commissioners ended with a 9-3 approval of a study of the project, sending it to the state and jump-starting the main design phase in the months to come.

Those who spoke out against the move claim the whole process is moving too quickly.

“Why the rush?,” asked one woman who lives in the affected area. “We are saying it doesn’t need it right now. Slow it down, reanalyze it, look at it differently.”

The project calls for the construction of a brand new thoroughfare, expanding Welaunee Blvd to Roberts Road, while adding an extension to Shamrock Street. According to the city, it would cost about $71 million and represent the Blueprint agencies largest approved development so far.

Proponents argue it will alleviate traffic on nearby Canopy Roads, and set up major economic growth in years to come.

County Commissioner Brian Welch was the first to share his thoughts. He lives in the affected area.

“You can’t make everybody happy and I accept that,” he said. “I think if you look at it objectively from a big picture perspective, this will improve the quality of life.”

Eight others joined Welch in voting to approve the study, including Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey.

“These are tough times, and these are tough decisions,” he said.

City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow opposed the move, arguing other Southside projects should take priority.

“That’s just not something I can support representing the entire city, where I can say that’s the most important project now,” he said.

County Commissioner Bill Proctor and City Commissioner Jack Porter joined Matlow in voting the plan down.

But the 9-3 majority won the day, sending the approved study to the state and greenlighting the main design phase to begin.

The move also appears to solidify the timeline, opening up construction to start around 2023 with the road open in 2025.

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