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Thursday, December 20, 2012

BWL Column: What should Lee County's road system look like?

 This week's BikeWalkLee column focuses on Lee County's update of its transportation policies currently underway as part of the Horizon 2035 effort, and invites the public to participate in the conversation through the County's online "Town Hall" tool.

12/20/12 (Go Coastal Section)  By BikeWalkLee
 Lee County looks the way it does partly because of transportation and land-use policies adopted 25 years ago in the county’s Lee Plan, a state-required comprehensive plan that lays out how growth will occur.If official predictions are correct, by 2035 Lee County's population will be more than 1 million — up from the current 631,000. Decisions that the Lee County Commissioners make in the next several months will set the county’s transportation and development course for the next 25 years.

McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers is one kind of design of a major Lee County roadway.
McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers is one kind of design of a major Lee County roadway.
A community’s transportation system can be either an asset or a liability. It can offer economic opportunity by moving residents from home to work or recreation and shopping. But it can also isolate neighborhoods, exacerbate congestion, degrade public health and jeopardize public safety.
Across the country, communities are coming to understand that a thriving, equitable economy requires jobs, services and housing connected by a robust, multi-modal transportation system.


US 41 in Fort Myers (looking north towards Colonial bridge)
US 41 in Fort Myers (looking north towards Colonial bridge) 
 Last year, as part of a community effort, the Lee County 2035 vision statement was adopted:
“Lee County will be a highly desirable place to live, work, and visit — recognized for its commitment to a sustainable future characterized by a healthy economy, environment, and community. Because of its commitment, Lee County will be a community of choice — valued for its quality of life; varied natural environment; unique sense of history and place; distinct urban, suburban, and rural communities; diverse economy and workforce; and varied travel options.”
Now, it’s time to implement this vision of a livable Lee. County staff is working on the important set of transportation policies that will become a part of the revised Lee Plan — and the time for public input is now.
Lee County has made it easy for you to participate in a new town hall virtual public forum at www.leecountytownhall.com. The proposed transportation element is posted for public input. Registration is free and it is easy to share your own ideas and support those you like. Lee County decision-makers will be listening.

You can comment directly on proposed policies, or you can present your opinions on important questions:

• Everyone agrees that roadway safety is important; do you think that enough priority is being given to the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists?
  Would you like to see more emphasis on public transit, walking and bicycling?• Do you think speeding is a problem on Lee County's neighborhood streets?
• Should Lee County keep building flyover overpasses like the ones along Summerlin at the intersections of College Parkway and Gladiolus?

It's up to you to become part of this community conversation to help shape the county’s transportation network of the future. Visit www.bikewalklee. org for more information, including BikeWalkLee’s comments on the draft transportation element.

How to Take Part in the Forum

What: www.leecountytownhall.com invites residents to share opinions and ideas on proposed projects. Participate in the New Horizon 2035 campaign, which is currently inviting comments on transportation policies.
How: look on the left hand column where it says “Sign up Now!” and click to sign-up. It's free.
Once you've signed up, you can click on “Walking, Riding & Rolling: Transportation Element.” Then click on the box that says “vote on this topic.” Review the information. Click the box at the bottom that says “What would you add to the conversation” and insert your comments. The click “submit your vote.”




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

BikeWalkLee awarded Injury Prevention Program/Outreach Effort of the Year



BikeWalkLee was honored to receive an award from one of its coalition partners, the Lee County Injury Prevention Coalition (IPC).  Thanks to IPC for being part of the complete streets campaign in Lee County!  Congratulations to all the organizations and individuals honored today.
BikeWalkLee members accepting award (L to R) Steve Rodgers, Darla Letourneau, and Dan Moser (also with IPC)



2012 Annual Awards
Injury Prevention Program / Outreach Effort of the Year
BikeWalkLee

What began as an effort by a number of community members to change a policy that one of our transportation departments had in place has turned out to be a nationally recognized effort to improve for all users the safety and accessibility of our public streets. Many hours are spent by the core Steering Committee members attending and serving on numerous committees and boards; researching and developing reports and data for use by transportation and community planners; and keeping both the public and government officials informed through many different media.  Of course, as is the case with IPC, partnerships are the key to BWL’s success.
As a result of BWL’s work since its inception in 2009, major changes in the way our local governments design our roads and determine land use and development strategies have come about, thanks to buy-in from elected officials, management, and staff.  Their efforts are as important as ever, considering key champions in leadership positions are no longer in their roles.  As well, not all local governments – nor our state DOT - have fully embraced the concept of “complete streets”, so there’s still much work to do for it to become the norm.      
 
The Lee County Injury Prevention Coalition (IPC) is a multi-disciplinary coalition of approximately 100 private and public organizations focused on reducing and preventing injuries among Lee County residents and visitors. For more information on IPC, visit their website.

Moser Column: Great uses of our public places and streets

Florida Weekly, Dec. 19, 2012
Dan Moser
This week's column focuses on last week's great "Everyone Rides" event, and the costs for use of public facilities and services to put on these events; along with an update on the Kleinpell case.

If you run or cycle and missed Everyone Rides / Everyone Runs a few weeks ago, you’ll want to make a note on your 2013 calendar for the second Sunday in December so you won’t make that mistake again. What’s been a popular Century Ride led by world-class cyclists as a fundraiser for Boys & Girls Club has morphed into something not seen here before.
Besides the 100-miler, there are three more rides of other distances, from 15 to 62 miles. But the addition of a half marathon and 5K run make this unique to our area, as does the staging venue and activities that happened there. JetBlue Park included lots of exhibitors, vendors and activities for kids, not to mention great food and drink.

Although the half marathon didn’t have elite runners as part of the field, it did have something just as appealing, particularly for Red Sox fans: The finish line was at home plate of Fenway South! And like the shorter distance rides, the 5K was meant for everyone, so next year don’t be intimidated — just come, participate and enjoy. Thanks to organizers, volunteers, sponsors, Lee County Parks and Rec and the Boston Red Sox who made this event a great success that’s sure to become a classic.

The finish line at the Everyone Runs event. 
COURTESY PHOTO
The finish line at the Everyone Runs event.

Speaking of classic events, the 34th annual City of Palms River Run 10K and2-miler took place from Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers on the first Saturday in December, as has been the case for many years. Being able to run over both the Caloosahatchee River Bridge and Edison Bridge makes this a very popular 10K, a distance that we really don’t have enough of in our area. The 2-miler went up the Edison Bridge and back, attracting almost as many walkers as runners.

What began in 1978 as the Lee Memorial Hospital Run that was staged in the hospital’s parking lot, this event has gone through many changes over the decades. At its height there was a 10K and 5K, attracting many hundreds of runners. But over the past decade, the numbers have been more modest, yet the cost of putting on this Children’s Hospital fundraiser has gotten very expensive — almost prohibitive — due mainly to costs of using the public park and personnel to manage the public roads on and around the routes. While it’s clear that there are real expenses for additional law enforcement and public works personnel, considering the many benefits events like this bring to the community, those who charge for public space and services should take those benefits into account. Everyone will lose if established events are run off and potential ones are scared off.

Advocacy update
By now it’s common knowledge that the driver of the vehicle that killed cyclist Tracey Kleinpell on the Sanibel Causeway in 2011, Theresa Shirley, was arrested for “doctor shopping” in order to obtain prescriptions for the kinds of medications found in her system at the time of the crash.
On the day of Ms. Shirley’s arrest Ms. Kleinpell’s parents were participating as advocates in a training workshop related to the development of a Bike/Ped Safety Plan that’s being developed by the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Council. As one would expect, Ms. Kleinpell’s mom and dad were relieved to learn that law enforcement continued to follow up on this matter, perhaps bringing some level of comfort to the whole family. BikeWalkLee and other advocates commend the Florida Highway Patrol, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Attorney General’s Office for their persistence in investigating where and how Ms. Shirley illegally obtained the Oxycodone and other controlled substances she was using when she killed Ms. Kleinpell. Much more on this can be found at BikeWalkLee's blog. 

Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails. ¦
— Dan Moser is a league cycling and CyclingSavvy instructor/ trainer and programs director for the Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at dan@floridabicycle.org or 334- 6417.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Presentation Materials from MPO Bike/Ped Safety Action Plan Training Dec. 11th and 12th


Last week the MPO hosted an excellent bike/ped safety training session as a kick-off for the development of the MPO's Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Action Plan.  Two national experts from Tindale-Oliver provided the training.  If you or your staff missed the training, the PowerPoint presentation materials are now available on the MPO website.

As stated in our earlier blog post, the Lee MPO is developing a Bicycle Pedestrian Safety Action Plan to reduce bicycle and pedestrian injury and fatality crashes through a wide range of recommended activities that will be identified as part of this project.  The project was approved by the Board in the Spring and the project scope has been defined and a consultant brought on to begin the process of developing the Action Plan.  The first step in launching this effort was a stakeholder training course for staff and professionals as well as advocates and community members.

The MPO hosted  two all-day training sessions--Dec. 11th for staff and professionals and Dec. 12th for advocates and community members. Below are links to the Lee Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Action Plan Stakeholder Training Presentations:

 The project is off to a good start.  The next step in the process is a Technical Stakeholder workshop on Jan. 8th, 1-5 p.m., which will be held at District 1 SWIFT Office at 10041 Daniels Parkway, Fort Myers.  It is important that the full range of stakeholder groups are represented in this year-long project team group.  Contact Don Scott, MPO staff director, for more information.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

FDOT's 5-year work plan is a mixed bag for bike/ped projects



 FDOT's first transportation funding decisions for Lee County since the new federal transportation legislation (MAP-21) were presented at Friday's MPO Board meeting and include both good and bad news for bike/ped projects.
Background:  In June of each year, the Lee MPO submits its 5-year list of priority projects to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for consideration.  FDOT reviews the list against available resources and decides in Nov./Dec. what projects to fund.  BikeWalkLee reviewed the FDOT draft plan 2013-2018 and made comments about the plan at MPO committee and board meetings in December.  The draft work plan was approved by the MPO Board on Dec. 14th.  The following are highlights of BikeWalkLee's analysis and comments.

This is the first workplan we've gotten from FDOT since the transportation reauthorization bill was enacted by Congress (MAP-21), and there are lots of changes and impacts on Lee County, as well as lots of questions.  MAP-21 made changes in the funding streams but overall, the FL total dollar amount was about the same as 2012 and states have flexibility to move money among all the categories, so the distributions reflect policy choices by FDOT.

·       Compared to previous years, funding of bike/ped projects was down significantly.  The MPO requested funding for $9.2 M for 25 stand-alone bike/ped projects (including $2.36 M for 4 regional enhancement projects (one of which in Collier Co.).

·       Only 13 projects were funded for a total of $5.7 M, or only 62% of our request.  None of the regional enhancement projects were funded, including the outstanding top two Collier/Lee priorities-- both are in planning/design phase: River of Grass Greenways (ROGG) ($700 K) & the Able Canal Greenways project in Lehigh ($300 K).

·       In total, this year's funding level is a 50% cut from the funding levels we've received for the past 4 years.

·       On the positive side, there were several important sidewalk projects in Cape Coral that are on the list.  Of particular importance is the decision to advance the Chiquita Blvd. sidewalks project ($740 K) so that it will begin next year.

·       In addition, there was as an increase in roadway projects that include safety improvements for bicyclists, pedestrians, as well as transit users, evidence of FDOT's commitment to improving safety for vulnerable road users.  There are 8 road projects for a total $6.4 million which will enhance safety for vulnerable road users.  This is double the number of projects in 2012, and a 56% increase in funding level.

At Friday's MPO Board meeting, BikeWalkLee's Darla Letourneau asked the Board to adopt the four recommended changes to the FDOT work plan proposed by MPO advisory committees, including funding for the trolley lane study for Fort Myers Beach, the two regional enhancement projects, and another technical language recommendation.  

MPO staff had worked with FDOT staff to find funding for the Fort Myers Beach trolley study, so that recommendation has been taken care of.  With respect to the 2 regional enhancement projects (recreational trails), the Board did not include those recommendations in the motion to adopt the work plan.  However, FDOT staff reiterated its commitment to the River of Grass Greenways project and agreed to review its policies and approaches to figure out how to fund regional trail projects in the future.  Lee MPO staff is reviewing whether there are other funds available that could be redirected to the Able Canal Greenways project.  These projects will be resubmitted in January for consideration in the June funding cycle.

Report by Darla Letourneau

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Comp Plan update review process continues, with current focus on transportation policies




County staff and its committees continue to work through the elements of the Comp Plan Horizon 2035 update, with the current focus on the transportation element and upcoming focus on the land use element.  This post reports on the recent LPA review of the transportation element and public comment, highlights the "Town Hall" online tool for participating in the review of draft elements, and provides an updated schedule of the review process.


Report from 12/10/12 LPA review of draft transportation element
As a follow-up to the 11/26 LPA meeting where they began discussions of the transportation element, the Dec. 10th LPA meeting focused exclusively on transportation issues.  The public comment period was reopened and members of the public, representing groups such as the Estero Council of Community Leaders, community planning panels from Palm Beach, Alva, and Bayshore, the Department of Health, BikeWalkLee, the MPO staff, the County's Community Sustainability Committee, environmental groups, and others, spoke about the impact of transportation policies on their communities, raised issues of particular concern, and spoke in support of a more balanced multi-modal transportation system that supported the community's goals.  By the end of the meeting, there was a consensus among LPA members, the Lee County staff, MPO staff, and the participating groups about the county's new direction and next steps.  The staff will revise the draft to reflect the various comments received and the consensus about future directions articulated at the meeting.  A revised draft will be brought back to the LPA for review.

Click here to read earlier blogs related to the topic:

Online "Town Hall" Opportunity
If you missed this opportunity to participate in the conversation, you have another opportunity!  Last week the transportation element was added to the online "Town Hall" interactive website for public comment.  It's up to YOU to become part of this exciting interactive community conversation! Click here to read the earlier blog post about how to join the conversation.

Updated Comp Plan review schedule
The land use element is the next major part of the Comp Plan to be reviewed.  The draft element will be reviewed first by the CSAC at its Jan. 16th meeting (Wed. 6 p.m.); and the LPA at its Jan. 28th meeting (Monday 8:30 a.m.).  Check the County's website in early Jan. to access the land use element when it is posted. 

In addition, the County Commissioners will hold a workshop on Wed., Jan. 16th (9 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.) to receive an overview by the staff about the Horizon 2035 Comp Plan update, where we've been, where we are, and where we're going. The workshop will highlight new big policy changes and their implications.  The current plan is for a BoCC transmittal hearing in April, with final adoption schedule for the Fall of 2013.