BikeWalkLee has reported on various developments related to the Ortiz Avenue road widening project over the course of the last few years. We were pleased to see that researchers at Florida Gulf Coast University have completed and published a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) of the project and delivered the results to the county commissioners.
HIAs are a stakeholder-driven process that are used to help evaluate a plan or policy. HIAs are becoming increasingly popular, as the method can isolate various features of a project or policy from other political or financial considerations. Transportation-related HIAs are becoming more popular, perhaps in part due to the significant consequences of ‘getting is wrong’ where bad design or policy can result serious injury or death.
As a result of the usefulness of this process, Margaret Banyan, Ph.D. and Vitor Suguri, MPA, researchers from Florida Gulf Coast University, completed a study to assess the health impacts of the Ortiz Avenue Widening Project. The goal of the Ortiz Road Widening HIA Project was to 1) assess the health consequences of a planned road-widening project and 2) aid stakeholders and policy makers to make informed decisions about any potential alternatives as may be needed.
The researchers, in coordination with stakeholders, considered three main categories of health impacts: 1) environmental impacts that are related to changes in the physical environment. These consist of collisions, fatalities, and air quality; 2) behavioral impacts relating to the changes in individual behaviors as a result of the project – primarily physical activity changes; and 3) social and community impacts, which are primarily measured by changes in social cohesion or social networks.
The study found that if constructed as planned, the Ortiz widening project would have mixed impacts on resident health. However, the impacts on health were primarily negative. The benefits included the provision of bike lanes and sidewalks that may lead to increased physical activity. However, these benefits were offset by significant negative health consequences that included an increased risk of collisions, decreased air quality, decreased physical activity (due to road speed and inability to safely cross the widened road), and decreased social cohesion.
|A bike/ped/transit-unfriendly road in Tice|
The recommendations for the project were to rethink the road design to narrow the overall lane width, reduce the number of lanes, and reduce design speed. Overall, the project should reduce the physical safety risks associated with a wider and faster road; enhance the walking and bicycling environment by incorporating bicycling and walking paths, crosswalks, and signalization for major pedestrian crossings; and incorporate additional greenspace or low impact development in the already purchased right of way as a way to encourage positive impacts on walking and bicycling behavior as well as increase social cohesion.
|Tice Planning Panel's proposed complete streets alternative for Ortiz Rd. project|
The HIA report was shared with the Lee County Board of County Commissioners and appears on the Pew Charitable Trusts Health Impact Project catalog of completed HIAs.Click here to see the full report.