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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Report Congested Locations--MPO Survey



REPORT CONGESTED LOCATIONS

The Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) needs your help in identifying congested roadways for which it may be able to identify “quick fix” improvements such as retiming traffic signals, restriping travel lanes etc. More expensive strategies like countywide signal timing update, intersection improvements, ITS deployments may be addressed through the MPO priority process, and implemented with federal funds sub-allocated to the MPO.  If you are aware of any congested locations, please fill out a survey online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2012LeeMPOCMS.   


Today's News-Press has an article about the congestion survey.  Excerpts below:


The survey gives the MPO an idea of where drivers are finding problems and helps to verify the observation of transportation planners, said Ron Gogoi, the MPO transportation planning director.
The MPO also wants people to suggest solutions to the problems they identify on the survey, Gogoi said.
The MPO’s Traffic Management Operations Committee will review the responses and try to address the problems. Each situation must be individually reviewed. Some could be fixed quickly by local governments, but others may require more complex and costly work, Gogoi said.
 
Past surveys contributed to traffic improvements on the Caloosahatchee River bridges and U.S. 41. Past surveys also helped to convince officials to widen Colonial Boulevard and Daniels Parkway.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dan Moser's Florida Weekly Column: Putting alternative transportation options on exhibit and into practice

March 28, 2012
One truism I relate to any audience I have the opportunity to reach is that, when one thinks about it, we all must deal with traffic of one form or another and in one way or another pretty much all of our lives, beginning the day we leave the hospital maternity ward. By traffic, I mean everything from the most basic form — walking — to cycling, driving, being driven or otherwise transported from point A to point B. So this aspect of our lives is something everyone is familiar with, although with many different perspectives and experiences. Commuter Services (www.commuterservicesfl.com), a program that promotes and facilitates alternatives to single occupant vehicle driving to work is the force behind an exhibition at Northwest Cape Regional Library that features transportation options available to Southwest Floridians. The library is located at 915 Chiquita Blvd., Cape Coral, next to Mariner High School.

Another interesting event took place last week at Harborside. The city of Fort Myers kicked off its Downtown Mobility Study with a public meeting to introduce the project and begin taking input. One of the best community planners in Florida (who also happens to be based in Fort Myers), Bill Spikowski, is on the team leading the study, so I have high hopes that the final product will be a well done and practicable tool. After the study phase is complete, the trick, of course, is to find the money to implement it and to stay on course (some readers might recall how politics and influence got us sidetracked to some degree from the prior downtown plan, although much of it has been followed as approved). If you go to www.cityftmyers.com you’ll find details and be able to make comments and suggestions.

Upcoming events
Related to the transportation exhibition is “Taking it to the Streets,” a regional campaign spanning all of FDOT District 1 (12 counties) that encourages, through incentives and tips to make it easy to do so, alternatives to single-passenger driving for commuting to work or school, as well as other trips. Doing so can save money, help the environment and offer health dividends, among other benefits. Your transit, car/van-pooling, cycling, telecommuting and walking trips can be submitted to www.facebook.com/ TakingittotheStreetsSWF. By doing so, you’ll become eligible for prizes and other incentives being offered by Commuter Services.

Finally, don’t forget to register to take part in the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb on Saturday, April 28, at High Point Place in downtown Fort Myers (http://www.lungusa.org/pledgeevents/ fl/fort-myers-climb-fy12/). Training opportunities at High Point on Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings are open to anyone registered for this unique event.

Advocacy update
A number of issues may be of interest at this time to anyone who would like to run, walk and cycle in a safe and inviting environment. BikeWalkLee’s blog: http:// bikewalklee.blogspot.com/) has details. But one matter stands out: the death toll on our roads continues to mount, with a 50 percent increase in traffic fatalities over this time last year. And many of the dead and injured are pedestrians and cyclists. There remains serious concern among those who work professionally in the field of bike/ped/traffic safety about road users’ behavior that leads to these tragic crashes and the consequences faced by those involved.

From my perspective, and one I’ve related in a recent column, motorists are all too often exonerated if the vulnerable road user victim (pedestrian or cyclist) was in any way, shape or form doing something he or she shouldn’t have been. So, until the attitude and practices of certain investigating law enforcement agencies changes from “blame the victim” to determining if one or both parties were at fault to some degree, be aware that just by being in the road but not in a motor vehicle means you’ve got strikes against you should something happen, even if the driver involved had a legal obligation to avoid the crash.

Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails. ¦

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2012 FLORIDA LEGISLATURE HELPS BICYCLISTS AND PEDESTRIANS


 Below is a press release from a new statewide advocacy organization, Florida Walks and Bikes, that summarizes the actions taken in the Florida Legislature this session re: bike/ped issues.

Florida Walks and Bikes

March 20, 2012

Bicycle/Pedestrian Legislation in the 2012 Florida Legislature

            2012 was a very good year for bicycle/pedestrian legislation in Florida.  Three groups of significant legislation were passed.

1)  Fix of Mandatory Bike Lane Law, Install Bike Lights instead of Paying Fine, Flashing Lights, CFR Standards for Helmets, Mobility-Impaired Pedestrians, Repeal of One Hand on Handlebars

Florida Walks and Bikes, along with Bicycle/Pedestrian Advocates, has been working with Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale/West Palm Beach, and Sen. Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami, on three issues, fixing Florida’s mandatory bike lane requirement, allowing cyclists to install lights instead of paying a fine for not having them, and allowing cyclists to use flashing lights, since 2010.

These issues and other bike/ped concerns were addressed in House Bill 1223, sponsored by Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Bartow, and  its companion bill, Senate Bill 1122, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg.   H1223 passed the Florida Legislature on March 9.  Assuming no veto by the Governor, H1223 changes Florida statutes in the following ways, effective January 1, 2013:

1)                  Modifies Florida’s mandatory bike lane law, passed in 2010 as part of the infamous H971.   H971 required bicyclists to stay in bike lanes, with just a few exceptions, even when staying in the bike lane was dangerous.   The new legislation allows the cyclist to leave the bike lane for any “potential conflict”.
2)                  Allows cyclists, who are cited for not using lights at night, to install lights instead of paying an $82.50 fine.   This not only gives cyclists the same privilege as motorists cited for improper equipment but it is expected that it will encourage more cyclists to use lights at night.  As nighttime crashes have proportionally more fatalities, it is hoped that this legislation will reduce bicycle fatalities.
3)                  Allows cyclists to use flashing lights on their bicycles.   Even though many bike lights flash, only non-flashing bike lights have previously been allowed by Florida law.
4)                  Requires all bicycle helmets in use, after January 1, 2016, to be approved by the Code of Federal Regulations, rules promulgated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
5)                  Requires vehicle drivers to come to a complete stop when a mobility-impaired pedestrian attempts to cross a crosswalk.   Mobility-impaired pedestrians are defined as those pedestrians using a crutch, cane, walker, wheelchair, or a service animal.  These pedestrians, if using a motorized wheelchair, will also gain the right to leave the sidewalk and use the roadway for any “potential conflict” if no alternative route exists.

A related bill, House Bill 7043, sponsored by Rep. Kenneth Roberson, R-Port Charlotte, passed the Legislature on March 8.   Assuming no veto by the Governor, that bill achieves the following:

6)                  Removes the requirement that bicyclists keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times.  The old requirement was deemed to have been an unnecessary statute due to its lack of enforcement.  This is slated to take effect July 1, 2012.

2)  Bicycles on Limited Access Facilities

            House Bill 599, sponsored by Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, included a 2 year pilot program in which the Florida Department of Transportation would allow three bridges on limited access highways to carry bicycle traffic.   FDOT is directed to select the bridges by October 1, 2012 and to begin allowing bicycles on them by March 1, 2013.  Thereafter, the bill requires FDOT to  make a report on the pilot program to the Legislature and Governor, due September 1, 2015.  Currently, Florida law does not allow bicycles to be used on limited access facilities such as interstate highways or turnpikes.  However, 20 state jurisdictions have allowed bicycles on limited access facilities with great success.

            H599 passed, after 11 p.m., on the last official day of the Legislature.  Assuming no veto, it takes effect July 1, 2012.

3)  Trail Sponsorhip/Naming Rights

            Senate Bill 268 and House Bill 181 proposed more revenue for Florida’s Trails program by allowing private entities to purchase sponsorship and naming of trails.  S268 was sponsored by Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville and its companion bill, H181, was sponsored by Rep. Irving Slosberg, D-Boca Raton.  85% of the funds raised will go to state trails programs.  15% will go to the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program and the Florida Safe Paths to Schools program.

            S268 passed the Legislature on March 7.  Assuming no veto by the Governor, it will become Florida law on July 1, 2012.


            Neither H1223, H7043, H599, or S268 is expected to be vetoed by the Governor.  

Florida Walks and Bikes is a new organization which recognizes Florida’s abysmal safety record yet its great potential as a wonderful state for walking and biking.   Thus, Florida Walks and Bikes has adopted the goal of “Taking Florida from Worst to First.”


Friday, March 23, 2012

Highlights from March 21st BPAC Meeting



Report from County's Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC)
by Steve Rodgers



1.  BPAC approved a draft Resolution for Bike Day/Week/Month, May 2012 that will be presented to the BOCC in their meeting on May 1st.  Bike/Ped advocates are invited to attend that meeting and speak if possible on the merits of the Resolution and the progress that Lee County is making towards safer and more complete streets.

2.  Andy Getch and Mike Tisch, LCDOT, proposed that BPAC form a sub-committee to work on prioritizing the Bike/Ped related projects that are found on the Lee County Complete Streets Resurfacing Evaluation Matrix and also part of the CIP that is already drafted through FY 2016-2017.  The team selected, Don Mayne (Dist 4), Steve Rodgers (Dist 2), and Keith Kibbey (at Large and Chairman, BPAC) will meet on Tuesday afternoon (1pm to 5pm) on April 3rd to follow through on this request.

3.  Mike Tisch, LCDOT, showed us samples of the way finding signs that will be used to mark the University Loop and the Lee Tour de Parks pathways.  A system of different colors will be used to indicate the degree of difficulty, in terms of distance, for each of the bike routes.  The signs for the University Loop (Alico Rd, Treeline, Estero Pkwy, and Three Oaks) will be placed in the next two months, along with new and improved bike lane symbols that are not as thick as ones that have been applied in the past.  Both of these routes are the focal points, or Demonstration Projects, of the Bike/Ped Master Plan that was adopted by the MPO last year.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lee Community Sustainability Advisory Committee(CSAC) votes to support staff recommendations on impact fees



 The Board of County Commissioners asked the CSAC to make a recommendation on impact fees.

Last night (3/21) the CSAC discussed Lee County staff recommendation regarding impact fees for Parks and Recreation, Schools, and Fire / EMS.  Mary Gibbs, Community Development Director, made a presentation on the staff's recommendations for impact fee adjustments based on its updated studies for Schools, Parks, and Fire/EMS. The conclusion of the three studies was that some fees should be raised and others lowered to meet the rational nexus ‘tests’ established by the courts and be based on recent ‘localized’ data.    (Click here to view the impact fee studies and draft ordinance. http://www.leegov.com/gov/dept/dcd/PressReleases/Pages/ImpactFeeUpdates.aspx )

The CSAC discussed a variety of issues and unanimously recommended that the BoCC adopt the staff’s recommendations.  There are several important background issues that contributed to the discussion that made this an important and critical vote.

First, it was clear that there was no clear consensus among Lee County’s advisory boards.  On March 5th, the LPA, in a 4/3 vote, recommended that the BoCC suspend school and park impact fees for two years.  The Horizon Council and its Business Issues Task Force recommended a similar approach.   There was a desire to increase the demand for development and economic growth. 

However, CSAC members discussed the results of several research studies that showed that there is no significant relationship between the reduction (or elimination) of impact fees on building permit activity. There was ample evidence that economically competitive counties continue to invest in their infrastructure –whether that be schools, parks, or EMS.  Several members noted that Lee County's existing  impact fees are competitive with other counties and do not appear to detract from business development. 

The Committee also heard public comments from the Lee County School District attorney who argued the school impact fees are critical to meet the needs of the growing school population; and any loss in impact fees would mean taking money away from the maintenance of existing schools to build new ones.  Her most salient point was that schools are being built today - this is putting the construction industry to work.  If impact fees are suspended the industry would lose existing jobs.

BikeWalkLee's representative  spoke in support of the staff recommendations and in opposition to any suspension of impact fees.  She argued that this is about equity-- who pays for the infrastructure and services.  The County's policy framework is that it is shared responsibility--developers (impact fees), taxpayers (property taxes), sales taxes (residents & visitors), and bed taxes (visitors).  The EAR vision and the Comp Plan process the Committee has been involved in for two years focuses on the economic health of the county and positioning it to attract and retain the businesses, residents, and visitors vital to our success.   If impact fees are suspended we've given away our "seed corn" – our only tool to provide incentives for infill and disincentives for suburban sprawl consistent with the EAR vision.   Perhaps most concerning is that if these fees were to be suspended, we risk road impact fees being the next on the chopping block.  Although the suspensions are for a limited time frame, they will be like any "temporary" tax cuts...impossible to reinstate because any elected official who votes to re-impose them will be accused of raising taxes.

The Horizon Council Business Issues Task Force chair reviewed his committee's recommendations and stated that the motive for the suspension of impact fees was an effort to increase the competitiveness of the county to attract businesses as we come of this recession, with a particular concern for small businesses.

Members of the LPA who voted against the suspension in committee, stated that the LPA did not have adequate information to make a decision, since the issue wasn't on the committee's agenda and no information was provided upon which to analyze the impact of a suspension.  They urged the CSAC  to adopt the staff recommendations.

There was general agreement that the Evaluation and Appraisal Report process committed to quality of life, connectivity, and economic improvement.  These are critical changes to the Lee Plan that we must get right in order to ensure economic prosperity.  The community has collectively embraced the idea that the economy, environment and equity are interconnected values that must be balanced. 

Economic prosperity comes from quality investments in community infrastructure.  Our way out of an economic downturn is to continue to develop Lee County in a way that enhances our educational system, our parks, and our emergency services – this way is to support staff recommendations for adjustment.

On Tuesday, April 10th (9:30 a.m.), BoCC will hold a public hearing on these impact fees.

Report by Darla Letourneau