Community continues to weigh-in on regional traffic project

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Tallahassee By Katie Kaplan, WCTV Eyewitness News
December 12, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV)-- An informational meeting on a high-profile, but controversial project that could affect all Leon County residents was held on Tuesday night.

The Northeast Gateway project could impact thousands of people in the region, depending on if they travel via Thomasville Road or pay county taxes, but no more so then the residents of the Killearn neighborhood. Following public outcry at a meeting in late November, the county agreed to work with the Killearn Homes Association to come up with several alternatives, which were debuted in the cafeteria of Montford Middle School. The public was able to view the results of a projected traffic study on each option.

"I don't really have a firm opinion. We are still reviewing all of the traffic plans," said President of the association David Ferguson.

Ferguson said he represents 3,800 homeowners. The board plans to meet on Monday night at 6:30 to discuss the plans further.

The county project has been touted as a regional fix to traffic on Thomasville, Miccosukee, and Centerville roads.

"Right now, it's just macro-level, 'Where will this road go? Where will it align with Centerville?'," said Autumn Calder, the director of Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency which is in charge of the project.

Residents are concerned for several reasons, including the impact of re-directed traffic and how it will flow into the Killearn area.

"I don't want more traffic to hit Miccosukee Road so that I can not get out of my subdivision," said resident Virginia Seymour.

James Walters lives on Shamrock South and said he is concerned about a traffic light going in on his street and how the influx of traffic will affect his property value.

"We bought in Killearn 16 years ago because it was a community. Not a commercial community, a home community," he said. "I am going to oppose it with everything that's in me. I am not a political activist, but I am probably going to become one."

The Killearn Homes Association brought in their own traffic engineer to work collaboratively with the county.

"There's definitely some increased traffic," said Debbie Dantin, who is consulting and collaborating on the project on behalf of the association. "But, the benefit of this roadway is that instead of all the neighborhood folks trying to get to Thomasville or Centerville Road to come down south into town, they can now continue further east, go out of the back and go further south and continue on."

Vice President of the Killearn Homes Association, Gloria Arias, said they are pleased overall with the outcome.

"Our streets are residential, and lots of cars cut through. Commercial traffic jeopardizes the safety of a very pedestrian neighborhood," she said. "Tonight, we saw the results of two viable alternatives."

Calder said the project could cost roughly $42-million and would be funded by Leon County taxpayers through the Local Option Penny Sales Tax. It is a project that County Commissioner Bryan Desloge said would make a long-term, positive impact on the region for years to come.

"This is a big project for Leon County," he said. "We want to walk slowly and we want to make sure they get what they want, but at the end, this is probably one of the biggest economic development projects that we've had in the past ten years and that we'll get in the next ten, but we want to get it right."

However, some homeowners are not as convinced.

"It's just going to add more of an urban sprawl instead of the rural community that we really value," said Janet Olin.

Calder said that all of the materials that were presented at the meeting would be posted online at NEGateway.com. The four alternative plans will be presented on December 12 at 3 p.m. in the commission chambers.

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