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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Alternative transportation takes shape in SWFL

This week's feature story in Florida Weekly highlights the multi-modal transportation efforts underway in Lee, Collier, and Charlotte Counties, with discussion of complete streets, light rail, and bike/ped facilities, and quotes from local officials.  Nice job, Florida Weekly!



The River of Grass Greenway will provide a pathway for cyclists and pedestrians across the Everglades from Naples to Miami. It is one of several regional efforts to create more and safer access for non-motorized transportation. For more information, visit www.evergladesrogg.org.  
Jan. 9, 2013
BY EVAN WILLIAMS 
 
The River of Grass Greenway will provide a pathway for cyclists and pedestrians across the Everglades from Naples to Miami. It is one of several regional efforts to create more and safer access for non-motorized transportation. For more information, visit www.evergladesrogg.org. A major road-widening project this year aimed at clearing congestion near U.S. 41 and County Road 951 in Collier County is just one example of how officials are catching up with population growth, and preparing for more.

“Right now it looks like we’re in the beginning of a nice growth period,” said Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala. “Obviously this is a place everybody wants to move and I don’t blame them at all.”

Hundreds of millions of dollars will be invested in the region’s transportation system in 2013, much of it for road repairs or widening. But the infrastructure for increasingly popular though lesser-funded “alternative” modes of transportation — meaning getting from points A to B any other way than one person in a car — is just starting to take shape.

Some of the activity this year may only hint at what a trip across town could look like a decade or more in the future, while other possibilities for travel or recreation are ready to enjoy now.
The Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization is exploring the long-term possibility of light commuter rail, bus rapid transit and a multi-use path running from the Charlotte County line through Lee and into northern Collier County. The MPO’s Rail Feasibility Study, expected to be complete late this summer, is focused on the already existing CRX/ Seminole Gulf railroad corridor.

While officials aren’t looking at building a commuter rail line any time soon, some say it will be a key factor in future planning. With governments tightening belts and Southwest Florida’s already extensive network of roads, said Lee MPO director Don Scott, “… you’re not going to be building new corridors, you’re going to be making more of the existing ones.”

Other plans encourage non-motorized travel. The Ring Around the City, a 20-some-mile multi-use trail that takes travelers from outer residential areas to downtown Punta Gorda and back, should be fully linked up by mid-March. Built to accommodate a slew of motorless pedestrians, and running alongside park facilities, additional phases of the loop will continue to be built throughout the year.
“Now you can go from the east side of town all the way to Laishley Park and the event center,” said Dennis Murphy Sr., director of growth management for Punta Gorda. “I’m hoping that once we get the paths all done, that particularly the people riding bikes will utilize these to get to work and go shopping without having to hop in the car just to run around.”

And in Collier County, construction is expected to begin on a portion of a long-anticipated multi-use trail running close to the Tamiami Trail from outer Naples — across the Everglades — to Krome Avenue near Miami. The 12- to 14-foot wide path, called the River of Grass Greenway, would also have an arm extending out to Everglades City.

“People say we are the end of the trip north and south but we are also the beginning of the trip east and west, so I think that’s how we’re going to see Collier County and Naples,” said Lucilla Ayer, executive director of the Collier Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Ms. Ayer called such transportation features, when used along with improvements to the bus system and traditional fixes to existing roads, a “balanced approach.” Another term used to describe it is “multi-modal” transportation. And another and perhaps the most official is Complete Streets, a design philosophy centered on incorporating alternative modes of transportation when it comes to design and funding. Planners in Lee and other counties are weaving its principles into current building codes.

That means, for instance, incorporating additional bike lanes, sidewalks and street parking into construction or repair plans. The plans, at least for now, don’t take into account commuter rail.
“I can tell you that the county is looking toward diversifying our transportation options,” said Paul O’Connor, director of Lee County Planning Division. “I don’t think we’re looking seriously at rail at this point in time. But we have adopted a Complete Streets philosophy.”

3 comments:

  1. The River of Grass Greenway would love to boast that some portions will soon be constructed, however, the pathway is still being defined and is currently in a feasibility study. (It is the "outer Naples" connector that will soon be constructed.) YOU are welcome to have your say about the ROGG during a 5-day work session January 29-Feb 5 located at Edison State College in east Naples, or comment at interactive website www.riverofgrassgreenway.org.

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  2. The roads are becoming so overcrowded and energy concerns are mounting so it is important to create ways to encourage non-motorized travel as well as boost public transportation such as buses to reduce the number of cars carrying single passengers on the road.

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  3. There should be more bike lanes, to make our commute easier and more secure. Everyday I ride to work and I would feel more safe if I could travel on a bicycle row instead of riding on the roads.

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