Street set for extreme makeover

FAMU Way, the two-way street located behind FAMU DRS, will be expanded to help disburse the flow of traffic between the FAMU and Florida State University campuses. This expansion is a result of the city’s efforts through the Gaines Street Development for Urban Revitalization.

Gaines Street is the city’s main connector for FAMU, FSU and the state capitol complex. This street connects more than 65,000 students and employees every day. Additionally, the Tallahassee Leon-County Civic Center annually adds 1.5 million visitors to the street for cultural, recreational and educational events.

FAMU Way runs south, adjacent to Gaines Street. The new plan will remove two traffic lanes from Gaines Street, and as a result, FAMU Way will offer additional vehicle routes and provide extra on-street parking. FAMU Way, which runs from South Monroe Street to Railroad Avenue south of the railroad tracks, will be extended to Lake Bradford Road.

Students said they are happy about the planned renovations because the street is too narrow.

“I ride down that street (FAMU Way) every day, and I’m always scared of driving into the ditch,” said sophomore Whitney Mitchell, 20. “I’m glad it will be widened.”

For more than 15 years, city planners have discussed improving Gaines Street and its surrounding streets.

During this time, redevelopment plans for Gaines Street have gone “from a six-lane divided boulevard to a two-way, two-lane and everything in between,” said Bill Woolery, the Gaines corridor project manager at the Public Works Department. “One of the biggest stumbling blocks is it’s an arterial roadway. To convert a facility of that type into a walkable community is a significant undertaking.”

The city planner’s aim is to revitalize the Gaines corridor and create a commercial and residential culture. The predicted result is calmer traffic and a more leisure- and pedestrian-friendly environment.

“We chose the one-way because it allowed more room to add those features on the side of the road that we thought would be attractive for redevelopment potential,” Woolery said.

City officials said the changes in the streets will also benefit transportation for cars and pedestrians.

“This is a way to balance the vehicular needs and the pedestrian needs and actually enhance the environment,” said Gabriel Menendez, city director of public works.

In June 2006, the Tallahassee City Commission agreed to go forward with plans to convert Gaines from a four-lane, two-way avenue to a two-lane, two-way road.

Officials said the city has allocated $34.5 million dollars for the design and development of the Gaines Street plan. $17 million will be spent on the FAMU Way extension, according to the City of Tallahassee Fiscal Year 2006 Approved Budget on The money for these expansions was gathered from city, county and state contributions.

A committee of interested residents called the Gaines Street Vitalization Committee was created to advise the City Commission and city planners on the improvements they’d like to see in the FAMU Way and Gaines Street area. The committee said that with the large number of people in the area, there should be an urban destination for them to enjoy.

“Our committee heard from consultants that helped us develop the Gaines Street Vitalization Plan, and they said that within a 10-minute walk of the intersection of Railroad Avenue and Gaines Street there are currently 60,000 people,” said Ruth Wharton, a chairperson of the Gaines Street Vitalization Committee.

“There are 40,000 from FSU, 10,000 from FAMU and another 10,000 state workers.