The Gainesville City Commission started down a long road on Thursday that will end with the extension of SW 62nd Boulevard in the fall of 2024.
The commission voted to let staff execute necessary agreements with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Alachua County and other parties for the completion of the new 1.1 mile connecting roadway.
In another sense, the vote on Thursday is also the end of a long process. Brian Singleton, a city engineer, said the 62nd Boulevard connector has been a top priority for nearly 15 years.
The county began analyzing potential routes for the new road in 2007, and a preliminary engineering report ran from 2014 to 2016.
Since then, the city has received state aid, and FDOT started approving the alignment, right-of-way acquisition and permitting.
In total, Singleton said 11 routes were analyzed. The current one provides the best benefits in terms of safety, cost and environmental resources.
The route would extend 62nd Boulevard from where it crosses SW 20th Avenue, at the Circle K and Cabana Beach Apartments, all the way to Butler Plaza, ending right next to the Walmart.
Currently, that section of road has no outlet and only services the apartment complex, gas station and a bus stop.
Singleton said the project will reduce congestion on I-75 along with SW 34th Street, Archer Road and Newberry Road.
Wetlands in the area formed a major factor in the design phase, and the only way to avoid affecting wetlands would have been to not build the road.
To meet county guidelines for wetlands mitigation, the city will purchase 4.5 credits from Mill Creek Mitigation Bank, allowing the bank to care for wetlands outside of the city without ongoing taxpayer costs.
For local guidelines, the city will work on the Bivens Arm Boardwalk Wetland Marsh Restoration.
The city would fund a project designed to assess the feasibility of restoring five acres of historical wetlands off of Williston Road that were drained in the 1960s.
If the study decides the Bivens Arm project is not possible, which staff doesn’t expect, the city will transfer $100,000 to the Environmental Sensitive Lands Fund to fulfil the mitigation protocol.
The 62nd Boulevard connector will cost around $14 million, but the state will heft the bill with grant funds, leaving only $313,000 for the city to foot in the form of wetland mitigation.
The city hopes to complete the design plans in November, and FDOT will finish right-of-way in February of 2022 along with final design and permits. Construction would then start in the fall of 2022 and last for two years.
The project received unanimous approval by the commission.