The Leon County Board of County Commissioners and the Tallahassee City Commission have jointly approved the proposed $78-million Northeast Gateway for major public infrastructure investments in one of the last remaining areas of vacant land inside Tallahassee’s Urban Services Area.
Local elected officials voted unanimously on April 22 to include the Northeast Gateway on the list of major infrastructure projects that would be financed by a proposed extension of Leon County’s one-cent local-option infrastructure sales tax. The sales tax extension referendum is scheduled for the November 2014 general election ballot.
As recommended by a blue-ribbon citizens committee and approved by City and County officials, the Northeast Gateway would put in place region-serving transportation and recreational infrastructure within the 7,000-acre Welaunee Critical Planning Area, owned primarily by long-time HGS client Powehouse, Inc., and the Mettler family. This predominantly agricultural area in Northeast Tallahassee’s growth corridor is bi-sected by Interstate 10.
Since 1990, the planning area has been designated in local government plans as the location for a major share of Tallahassee’s future growth. City planners have projected that 8,790 homes with 19,000 residents are expected in the Welaunee Critical Planning Area by 2035, along with retail, office and light industrial centers totalling 2.2 million square feet.
The sales tax extension project list identifies $47.3 million in top-priority funding for Phase 1 infrastructure that would replicate the community’s most popular road and linear park. Welaunee Boulevard would serve a new interchange at I-10 and would be designed like Tallahassee’s Blair Stone Road Extension along Tallahassee’s east side.
Also included in Northeast Gateway Phase 1 is a new 250-acre greenway and multi-use trail system based on the design principles of the popular St. Marks Trail in southern Leon County.
The four-lane Welaunee Boulevard would serve as a north-south route to the proposed I-10 interchange while a two-lane extension of Shamrock South would distribute traffic east and west. Traffic studies show the interchange and regional road network would “significantly reduce traffic volumes at adjacent interchanges” at I-10 / Thomasville Road and I-10 / U.S. 90 (Mahan Drive). The interchange and roads also would dramatically relieve congestion on two of Tallahassee’s famous canopy roads, Centerville and Miccosukee.
Powerhouse and the Mettler family have offered to donate right-of-way for the region-serving roads that would be constructed with sales tax proceeds. The interchange was included by the Florida Department of Transportation in its I-10 Master Plan in 2013 and is proposed for state or federal financing.
The Northeast Gateway includes two new trailheads on the existing 500-acre Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway, which was planned by Powerhouse and acquired by the State of Florida in 1998. And it includes the proposed 8.4-mile-long Welaunee Greenway with multi-use trails that would connect to the Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway by way of a pedestrian / bicycle bridge across I-10 located away from the new interchange.
The new greenway and footbridge would create a 17-mile trail loop in the Northeast Tallahassee growth corridor.