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Southside Residents Still Concerned About New Road, Airport Gateway Project

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Kate Payne via WFSU

Southside Tallahassee residents are still worried about a proposal to build a new road through their neighborhoods. If city and county officials approve it, the street would be part of the Airport Gateway plan. A recent public meeting on the issue drew dozens of residents.

Initially, city and county staff were just interested in improving and expanding Springhill and Lake Bradford Roads. The idea was to impress visitors driving up from the airport and into town.

And Ben Pingree says that’s still the plan, just without adding new road lanes. He's the director of PLACE, the joint city / county planning authority.

“If we would just live within the existing cross section, the existing right of way, we could save significant dollars and still capture the benefit of an airport gateway cross section," Pingree said.

"So the same types of bike trails, the same types of improvements and beautifications. But you avoid costs because you’re not tearing up under the street a lot of the various utilities."

But now Florida State University wants to build a brand new road as part of the airport gateway project. Autumn Calder with Blueprint, a city / county planning agency, says the street would meander east of the FSU Golf Course and Innovation Park.

“It begins just west of Pottsdammer and goes up to…just a little bit southwest of Stuckey. So cutting through the FSU Campus, through Alumni Village. So as you can see, gateway treatment here, multi-use trail, bike lanes and sidewalk,” she said.

Residents are worried FSU’s interest in a new road will take away from needed improvements elsewhere. Cassandra Brown lives in the area and says the Orange Avenue - Lake Bradford - Springhill area is congested and unsafe for pedestrians.

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Kate Payne via WFSU

“And then I have to take Ridge Road to Fairview where I work to avoid all of this. I can’t even come back up this road," Brown said. "If I leave something home and I have to come back down Springhill, it’s not happening."

Southside resident Latonya Johnson doesn’t see why the new road is needed.

“With the new road, why are we coming through, making a decision to come through the neighborhood when you have Paul Dirac over here that can take you to Stuckey?” Johnson asked.

And there would be neighborhood and business impacts. Autumn Calder says ultimately privately owned land and homes would be bought up to build the Airport Gateway Project.

“We take acquiring property very seriously and we follow the federal guidelines for property acquisition which includes an incentive program and relocation expenses. So we go pretty far when it comes to acquiring people’s property,” Calder said.

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Kate Payne via WFSU

But the project is still in the conceptual phase, and it’s not clear just how many would be affected. The question before city and county officials now is whether the Airport Gateway plan should include the new road.

Residents will have another chance to voice their concerns at a public workshop slated for Thursday November 16th at 5:30 pm at City Hall. City and county officials will take a vote on the plan December 5th.