Three major business organizations in the Gainesville region have called upon the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization (MTPO) for the Gainesville Urbanized Area to designate the Southwest 62nd Boulevard Connector project as a top priority.
The Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Builders Association of North Central Florida (BANCF), and the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of REALTORS (GACAR) have asked MTPO to prioritize extending and widening Southwest 62nd Boulevard in its Year 2040 Long Range Transportation Cost Feasible Plan.
In addition, two of the region’s major medical centers, UF Health Shands and North Florida Regional Medical Healthcare, have written to the MTPO expressing their support of the project.
What is the MTPO?
Established in 1978, MTPO is an organization responsible for transportation system planning within the Gainesville Metropolitan Area. Such planning is necessary to receive federal and state funds for transportation projects.
The MTPO is comprised of 12 voting members: the five Alachua County commissioners, the mayor of Gainesville and the six City of Gainesville commissioners. Together, this body is responsible for developing a list of transportation priority projects to be funded with limited taxpayer dollars.
Only $83 Million for $500 Million in Need
Roughly $500 million is needed for transportation projects in our area by 2040, but only approximately $83 million in public funding is fore casted to be available.
MTPO receives advice from its citizen, technical and bicycle/pedestrian advisory committees on what projects it should prioritize.
Each advisory committee voted unanimously in July to recommend a planning document including Southwest 62nd Boulevard as a top ranked roadway project.
MTPO Will Rank-Order Projects
In October 2015, the MTPO will vote on the final ranking of transportation projects eligible to tap into the approximately $83 million of forecasted federal and state funds available over the next 20-year period (2021-2040).
Although MTPO receives advice from its advisory committees, the final decision on what projects are included and prioritized in the Cost Feasible Plan belongs to the commissioners.
Why Prioritize Southwest 62nd Boulevard?
Completing the Southwest 62nd Boulevard Connector project would create a new north-south corridor near Interstate 75 linking Newberry Road (State Road 26) and Archer Road (State Road 24).
Expanding and enhancing our existing roadway network is important to increasing connectivity, reducing congestion, improving first responder response times and facilitating economic growth.
This vital multimodal corridor in the City of Gainesville would better connect residents with major employment and medical centers in our community. It would also enhance tourist connections to top destinations.
Reduce Traffic Congestion
The project would also reduce traffic congestion, as an estimated 8,700 fewer vehicles per day (a 10 percent decrease) would be on Interstate 75 by 2040 if Southwest 62nd Boulevard is extended and widened, according to Atkins North America Inc., a consultant for the MTPO. Local roads such as 34th Street and 75th Street would also be expected to have less congestion.
Improve First Responders’ Response Time
First responder response times would be improved as our law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical professionals would have a new local north-south connector option to utilize.
Facilitate Economic Growth
Economic growth would be stimulated due to new job creation and more commerce facilitated from increased access to economic hubs. Supporting economic vitality is an adopted MTPO principle guiding its long-range transportation planning.
Bipartisan Political Support
The project also has strong bipartisan political support, as both U.S. Congressman Ted Yoho (R) and U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D) have endorsed the project.
In fact, Congresswoman Brown made a personal appearance before MTPO commissioners and underscored her support during an August 2015 meeting.
The roadway network is the backbone of the Gainesville area’s regional transportation infrastructure, as it facilitates the free flow of people, services and goods.
The Southwest 62nd Boulevard Connector is a critical component of that network and should be a top MTPO funding priority.
Our local community and region as a whole would benefit from the investment.
GERRY DEDENBACH is Vice President of CHW Inc., BRYAN HARRINGTON is Vice President of Project Development at Parrish- McCall Contractors and Chair of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Committee and KAMAL I. LATHAM is Vice President for Public Policy of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.