Thursday, May 30, 2013

BikeWalkLee's recommendations to BoCC for June 3rd consideration of transportation CIP

 BikeWalkLee transmits its comments to BoCC on transportation projects to be debated on Monday.  If you want to share your views with commissioners, this is the week.

At Monday's  June 3rd Management and Planning (M and P) meeting, the County Commissioners will have their second discussion about three transportation projects on the draft CIP.  Click here for the background materials for this meeting (Agenda Item #2).

Below is the e-mail to BoCC transmitting our letter, which summarizes our recommendations:

May 30, 2013

County Commissioners,

Attached is BikeWalkLee's letter to the Board for Monday's M & P meeting,  which contains our comments and recommendations on the transportation component of the draft CIP.  Our letter asks that you consider these issues in the larger context of the fiscal realities facing transportation funding. 

This letter is organized around projects in the CIP and includes as attachments our previous recommendations, as well as those of the LPA and CSAC Committees.  We believe that implementing these recommendations would allow the Board members and the County to realize the goal of fiscal responsibility and community livability.

Below is the summary of BikeWalkLee's specific CIP recommendations related to the issues before you on Monday's agenda:

Estero Boulevard: Estero Boulevard should be considered as the county's top priority project and funds should be reallocated to fully fund the second segment ($7 M) over the next two years.

Alico Road: The Alico Road project should not move forward until a comprehensive master plan for the Research Diamond area is completed.
·        The $1.6 million budgeted for 2012-13 for the design phase as well as the proposed $8.35 M in the 2015-16 and the $0.5 M 2016-17 amount be reallocated to the Estero Blvd. project (a total of $10.6 million).
·        When/if this road is ready for widening, the costs should be paid for by benefiting land owners/developers, not by county residents through gas taxes.
Homestead Road: The Homestead Road Complete Streets study now underway should be completed (scheduled for June 2014) before making further decisions on the Homestead Road project (Sunrise Blvd. to Alabama Rd ).
·        A portion of the $3 million currently available for ROW purchases should be reallocated to street redesign and the remaining funds for ROW purchases should be expended subsequent to the needs outlined in the redesign.
·        Funds budgeted in 2015-16 should be dedicated to redesign and construction costs (now in 2015-16 for $12.1 M) should be moved to 2016-17.
Ortiz Avenue: The Ortiz north of Ballard should be redesigned as a two-lane section with a turn lane/median and other complete street features.
·        A portion of the $3.1 million currently available for ROW purchases should be reallocated to street redesign and the remaining funds for ROW purchases should be expended subsequent to the needs outlined in the street redesign.
·        The $10.7 million in CIP budget in the 6-10 year window should be revised to accurately reflect the costs of the redesigned street.
The county's approach to transportation planning and budgeting needs a major overhaul in light of revenue realities. BikeWalkLee recommends that the Board hit the "pause" button, and do what other communities around the country are starting to do--take all the projects in the pipeline and re-evaluate them, right-size them, focus on improving existing roadways instead of building new capacity, work closely with their communities, and re-prioritize our transportation investments to live within the funds available.

Thank you for considering our recommendations as you set budget priorities for next year and beyond.

Darla Letourneau & Margaret Banyan
on behalf of BikeWalkLee

BWL Column:Bike trips offers fun, challenge at Lakes Park in Fort Myers

Tour de Parks Route Map
Today's BWL column encourages you to check out the new Tour de Parks biking route and provides three suggested rides.
Looking for a ride that’s safe and interesting? One that keeps you off the roadways (except to cross them) and shows off some of the county’s recreational assets?
Well, grab your bikes and head to Lakes Park in south Fort Myers.

You should start at this 279-acre park for two reasons: Plenty of parking and plenty to do for the non-bike riders in the crowd. (You can even use an easy ride around the park as a warm-up.)
Entrance to Lakes Park on Gladiolus Dr.

We’ll give you three options for ride length – 8, 12 and 20 miles – and there’s even a map of the route (dubbed the “Tour de Parks”) on your way out of the park. There are also wayfinding signs with directions and distances along the route, although not always facing in the right direction for some riders.

Start out from Lakes Park and turn left onto the bike path that runs along the north side of Gladiolus Drive to its intersection with U.S. 41. Cross (carefully and patiently) and pick up the path on the north side of Six Mile Cypress Parkway. Stay on that until you reach Daniels Parkway, passing Hammond Stadium (where the Twins and Miracle play) on your left.

• If you’re doing 8 miles, turn left onto the path on the north side of Daniels and stay on that until you across Metro Parkway and Ten Mile Canal. Then turn south (you may need to go further west to the signal to cross safely) and pick up the Yarbrough Linear Park trail south to Six Mile Cypress, turn right and proceed back to Lakes Park.

• For the 12-mile route, continue north on Six Mile Cypress Parkway (you can switch to the path on the west side if you prefer) to Penzance Blvd. and the Six Mile Cypress Slough Center. This is the hub of the 3,400-acre wetlands ecosystem, which includes a 1.2 mile boardwalk into the slough itself (for those who’d like a little walk). When you’re done, retrace your ride (or swing over to the Linear Park Trail on the 8-mile route) and return to Lakes Park.
New wayfinding signs

• Going the full 20 miles? Stay northbound on the Six Mile pathway to the intersection with Colonial Blvd. – and be careful on the northern portion with all the shopping center entrances. Negotiate the intersection to end up on the northeast corner, where you’ll find the Calusa Nature Center nestled in the trees. This 105-acre site has a museum, three nature trails, a planetarium, and butterfly and bird aviaries.

Heading back to Lakes Park, you can either use the Colonial Blvd. trail (more direct and protected) or the North Colonial Linear Park Trail (more scenic), which goes past the city’s Neighborhood Trailhead Park when it crosses Shoemaker Blvd. However, it also means you’ll have to ride in the bike lane on Metro Parkway south from where the Linear Park ends down to Colonial Blvd. – which may be off-putting for some.

Either way, pick up the Yarbrough trail along Ten Mile Canal south to Six Mile Cypress, then return to Lakes Park and the end of your ride.

Once you master this route, you can start from different points or throw in other side loops to expand your biking horizons even further. Use the new bike map or the county’s “Tour de Parks” map for guidance.

 More Information
• For a map of the full Tour de Parks route, download one from or
— BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for Complete Streets in Lee County. Information, statistics and background online at

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

BWL's Guest opinion: Engaging to improve our bike, walk safety

Today's News-Press features a commentary by BWL's Margaret Banyan and Ann Pierce about the potential for recent community engagement in Tice to be the beginning of a new approach to transportation planning throughout Lee County and its municipalities.

Walkers and bicyclists in Tice and other parts of Lee County face inhospitable conditions that put everyone at risk. The high incidence locally of bicycle and pedestrian deaths and injuries are exacerbated by speed, design problems, access difficulties, inadequate sidewalks, confusingly dangerous crosswalks and no bicycle accommodations.

Activities like these Tice workshops are the beginning of efforts that will have demonstrable economic and safety outcomes.

Not long ago, Miami was considered one of the worst cities for bicycling and pedestrian safety. Elected officials aligned themselves with grassroots citizens’ networks making infrastructure improvements for safety and leveraged these efforts to revitalize declining neighborhoods. Last year, Miami was awarded national status as a Bicycle-Friendly Community and its two-year-old bike share program is already considered one of the best in the nation.

 In the same spirit of citizen-led community improvement, FDOT partnered in the Tice activities by launching its countywide safety campaign, “Travel SafeLee.” The campaign is designed to change bad behaviors that create unsafe conditions on our roads.

These events in Tice should be the beginning of a new approach to transportation planning throughout Lee County and its municipalities. Transportation officials should seize this opportunity of a new, more open approach to engage in the least costly and most effective type of public/private partnership — that of a government working in active cooperation with its own citizens.

Our elected officials need to invest scarce funds to improve conditions for all road users, developing creative solutions generated from the rich resource of broad citizen input, and building the infrastructure for strong local economies, healthy communities and a sustained environment.

We have a ways to go, but Tice and all of Lee County can become a “best in the nation” place. Working together with our public agencies we have the ability to make the improvements necessary for all to enjoy safe and convenient walking, cycling, and transit use.

 Margaret Banyan, Ph.D., is an associate professor and director of the SW Florida Center for Public and Social Policy at FGCU. Ann Pierce has worked as a sustainability professional for 30 years.

Dan Moser's Column: With Complete Streets, Tice could (once again) be nice

Florida Weekly, May 29, 2013              This week's Moser column highlights the exciting community collaboration taking place in Tice, and the recent walking audit project.

Dan Moser
Once a thriving and important part of Lee County, the east Fort Myers community of Tice has long since lost that reputation. But some residents are convinced it can regain its stature, so Lee County government provided them with a chance to make plans and guidelines that can lead to the reemergence of Tice.

For well over a year, county staff and planning consultants worked with residents and business owners. They developed a plan to address everything from transportation options to redevelopment projects. Earlier this month, as the Tice Historic Community Plan was getting close to becoming the formal guide that will eventually become part of our county’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, the effort was significantly enhanced by additional expertise and the promise of resources.

As a result of being awarded a technical assistance grant from Project for Public Spaces, consultants from the nonprofit Local Government Commission joined representatives from various transportation departments, law enforcement agencies, human service organizations, planning divisions, businesses and most importantly, citizens, to conduct walking audits. Once everyone had a chance to experience the streets, intersections and other elements of the community with a critical eye, evaluation and recommendation sessions led by the experts took place.
Another serious problem that rose to the surface is the condition for students and anyone else trying to access Schandler Park from Royal Palm Park Road. The park serves as the pick-up and drop-off point for a number of school buses, yet the road that serves as one of the primary accesses from the adjacent neighborhood to Palm Beach Boulevard has no sidewalk and is lined by deep ditches on both sides, setting-up a dangerous situation as motorists vie for the same space as kids, moms with strollers and others. Hopefully, this very real safety hazard will be addressed as soon as possible.

It’s encouraging to see a community collaboration effort begin to pay off, especially when those who usually don’t have a voice take an active role. The proof of all the hard work paying off will be what actually ends up on the ground as well as the final policy document, but there seems to be true commitment from those with the power and resources to make good things happen.

Upcoming events
The Fort Myers Track Club has a couple of events coming up. Its annual Membership Run takes place in June (date TBD) and the Freedom 5K will be on Thursday, July 4. Details on those and other local races can be found at

Some excellent rides and unique activities to go along can be had at the Peace River Riders’ fourth annual Wheels & Wings Ride, being staged at a new location this year. The July 6 event will no doubt be lots of fun, especially after the ride because it’s being staged at a locally famous establishment, the SlipKnot Lounge. Ride-wise, if you’re up to it you can take part in the Gentleman’s Race. Then, try to get a speeding ticket before joining the party. You can get all the details and an explanation of the associated activities at

Finally, if you’re thinking of taking part in the third annual Galloway Captiva Triathlon ( in September you’ll need to act fast because individuals and team participation is limited and the cap has been reached both years prior. I’ll have more on this family event in upcoming columns.

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 or 334- 6417.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Lee County Advisory Committees weigh in on transportation projects in the draft 5-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP)

Both the LPA and CSAC reviewed the County's draft CIP last week, and the BoCC will again discuss three road projects at the June 3rd budget workshop.  If you want to share your views with commissioners, this is the week.

As part of the annual budget process, the county develops a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that reflect the County's infrastructure needs, including transportation projects, over a five-year timeframe.  Two committees have responsibility for reviewing the draft CIP and making recommendations to the County Commissioners before it is approved.  The Local Planning Agency (LPA) has the responsibility to determine whether the CIP is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.  The Community Sustainability Committee (CSAC) reviews the CIP in terms of its alignment with the County's sustainability and complete streets objectives.

LPA Recommendations
At the May 20th LPA meeting, the committee heard presentations by Lee County staff and took public comment from several citizens and organizations, including BikeWalkLee, the Tice Historic Planning Committee, and Responsible Growth Management Coalition.  As a result of extensive deliberations, the LPA unanimously approved the following recommendations to the BoCC*.

o   Ortiz: That we ask the Board of County Commissioners to revisit the current plan on Ortiz north of Luckett Road to Hwy 80 to reconsider the recommendations from the community and to work with the community on redesigning that section of the road to satisfy the needs of the community.

o   Alico widening: 

  • That the timing of the Alico Road extension be contingent on the completion of a master plan for the Research and Development Diamond and that it should lead to reallocation of funds as shown in the CIP.

  • The Board of County Commissioners, in the funding for future expansion of Alico east of Treeline, take into account other funding mechanisms than gas tax such as forming an MSTU or other private funding mechanisms to accomplish the widening of that road rather than put that on the tax payer.

o   Estero Blvd. Improvement: that South Estero Boulevard improvements should be moved to the highest priority for funding since that road meets the definition of how the priority should be set in Objective 2.3 in the current Comprehensive Plan

*Note: LPA member Steve Brodkin voted in support of these recommendations, but moved to reopen the vote so he could vote against the overall motion because he felt that the CIP is not consistent with the Lee Plan.  The motion as adopted states that the LPA finds the CIP consistent with the Lee Plan with the following recommendations.

CSAC Recommendations
The CSAC met on May 22nd to consider the draft CIP and heard from staff and the public, including Darla Letourneau representing BikeWalkLee and Margaret Banyan who is a member of the Tice Historic Planning Committee.  Letourneau's presentation  focused on the consistency of the CIP with CSAC's 2012 recommendations (see Attachment 1 in BikeWalkLee's June 2012 memo to the BoCC), and distributed a draft motion for the Committee's consideration.  Due to the lack of a quorum, the motion could not be acted upon and will be delayed until  June 19th. 

 The proposed motion would support the LPA recommendations (see above), and reiterate some of the CSAC 2012 recommendations that were not acted on last year.  In addition, the draft motion includes a request that LeeDOT assess changes to the CIP with respect to planned right of way purchases for those projects that are unlikely to proceed as currently planned, including, Three Oaks Parkway, Ortiz Avenue (SR80 to Luckett), and Homestead 4L/Sunrise--Alabama. 

BoCC Review of CIP focused on three road projects
No budget workshop has been planned for the BoCC to discuss the proposed CIP; however, there was an Management and Planning (M & P) meeting on May 6th for the Board to discuss staff options on how to move forward on three road projects--Estero Blvd. Improvement, Alico widening, and Homestead Rd. widening--given that there were insufficient funds for the current plans and schedules for these three projects.  Here is the link to the staff's paper provided to the Board on 5/2.

BikeWalkLee communicated with Board members by email on May 3rd to reiterate its 2012 recommendations on these three projects:

"As we stated in the attached June 19, 2012 memo and on many other occasions, we believe that the Estero Blvd. improvement project should be the county's top funding priority.  With respect to the Alico Rd. project, we recommended that this project not move forward until after the development of a comprehensive master plan for the Research Diamond area.  Thus, we recommend that the $1.6 million currently budged for 2012-13 for the design phase, as well as the 2013-14 and out year costs, be delayed until such time as that master plan is completed to ensure that the roadway conforms to the envisioned land use."

"Since preparing those recommendations, there is one new development that should be factored into your discussions.  Subsequent to our June 2012 comments, the Board provided $1.2 million in the final CIP for the Lehigh complete streets activity centers study and design work, which we actively supported.  We believe that the outcomes from that study will be needed before you can decide the appropriate next steps and schedule for the Homestead Rd. project that is discussed in Policy Question #2."

At the May 6th M & P meeting, the Board discussed the three projects but failed to provide staff with direction about how to prioritize them or revise their schedules to live within available resources.  Instead, they asked staff to come back to them with alternatives for financing these projects as currently planned.  That follow-up discussion is scheduled to occur at the June 3rd budget workshop.  Check the County website for staff materials that will be sent to the Board in advance. (Generally posted the Friday preceding the Monday workshop.)  Note it's on the Budget Workshop link, not the BoCC agendas or M & P page.

When do citizens get a chance to provide public comment on the CIP?
Except for the public comment opportunities at the LPA and CSAC meetings, there is no forum for public comments before the BoCC until the final budget hearings in September, after the budget decisions have essentially been made.

Although there is not an opportunity to speak at BoCC meetings on these projects, citizens and organizations can always write, call, or meet with elected officials to share their views on these important proposed expenditures, with the next opportunity being before the June 3rd budget workshop.  You can also provide public input at the upcoming CSAC meeting on June 19th.

Report by Darla Letourneau