"I am pleased to announce as the Gadsden County representative to the Capital Region Transportation Planning Agency that during its Nov. 16 meeting, the CRTPA board unanimously approved $600,000 in funding for the necessary environmental mitigation associated with the Quincy bypass project. The wetland mitigation effort is the final action required by the Florida Department if Environmental Protection to permit the bypass and move it to the construction phase as a regional stimulus project," county commissioner Doug Croley told the Quincy City Commission Tuesday night during its regular meeting.
The news was what commissioners wanted to hear. For almost 15 years the bypass has been a priority. It would almost eliminate tractor-trailer traffic from the downtown area by re-routing unwanted vehicles from State Road 12 around the city to U. S. Highway 90.
The bypass would eliminate much of the noise associated with large trucks, reduce the hazard presented by large trucks that often transport fuel and other biohazard substances through downtown and reduce the wear and tear on city streets.
The project was put on hold because there were no funds available to complete the DEP-required study.
According to Croley, the Florida Department of transportation recently purchased 274 acres of environmentally sensitive land adjacent to the Quincy bypass route. This property could save $200,000 in required wetland mitigation process. Without the purchase, FDOT would have to mitigate the environmental impact of the bypass under the "contribution to a wetlands bank" process. This process would cost approximately $800,000.
Jack McLean, Quincy city manager, said Croley's announcement is one commissioners have been waiting to hear for several years.
"This project has been on the drawing board a long time and each time it looked as if we were getting close, something always happened to push the time frame back. We are elated. The bypass will make it possible for us to have downtown events without suffering through the noise and pollution of those big trucks. But more than that, it was a safety factor. With all of the people working downtown, we could have a major catastrophe if an oil tanker or a loaded log truck overturned," he said.
"As part of the CRTPA discussions with FDOT regarding the Quincy bypass project, FDOT has also committed to provide the additional funds needed to complete the design work on the project. These additional funds are over and above the $192,000 in design funding already committed and approved by the CRTA board last month. The total design costs for the project could be funded, upwards of $300,000," Croley said.
The design fund alone, with the wetland mitigation funds, totals approximately $900,000 in direct transportation assistance to the citizens of Gadsden County. When the bypass is completed with the design and mitigation phases, the project will be "shovel-ready" for the construction phase. That phase could begin with the award of federal transportation investment generating economic recovery grant stimulus funds recently applied for the the city of Quincy, according to Croley.
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