The official Blog for bikewalklee.org. BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County, FL.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Dan Moser Column: Pain before gain on Fort Myers Beach
Dan's column this week reviews the history of the Estero Blvd. Improvement project on Fort Myers Beach, which is set to begin construction later this year. His advocacy corner criticizes FGCU for its lack of bike/ped-friendliness, as the TIGER project gets underway.
It’s going to get much worse before it gets a whole lot better. That may not seem like a good thing but it’s actually great news for residents and visitors ofFort Myers Beachnow that work has begun to make the long-awaited improvements toEstero Boulevard. According to project managers, it may take up to 10 years to complete this massive undertaking, which includes utility work, stormwater management, and sorely needed bicycle, pedestrian and transit upgrades — all on the one and only through road on the island.
Even before the community became a municipality in 1995 it was obvious thatEstero Boulevard needed to be fixed, especially for the many people walking and riding bikes. To that end, one of the first orders of business the newly formed Town ofFort Myers Beachundertook was to formally lay out its wishes for this county road that serves as the main arterial. Experts were brought in, including renowned planner Dan Burden, to help craft the plan for a walkable community, and the resulting product was formally adopted into the town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, a guiding document required by the state ofFlorida. Seeing it finally begin to come to fruition — even knowing all the pain the work will bring — is something I and others were starting to think would never happen.
A good part ofEstero Boulevardwill include all these features.
Of course there are those who think that because more motor vehicle lanes aren’t being added that this is not really a fix. But there’s no practical or affordable way additional right-of-way could be purchased, so there’s always going to be bottlenecks at either end ofEstero Islandat the bridges, even if more cars could be accommodated on the roads. So the design that will become reality is the best option for residents, visitors and businesses. I hope those who continue to believe more motor vehicle travel lanes is the answer will eventually accept this Complete Streets project as the real solution.
Work on projects funded by the TIGER grant — the $10 million award to improve our bike/ped environment — has begun on roads and sidepaths fromColonial Boulevardsouth to theCollier Countyline. One notable change that strays from the formally agreed upon project list comes from FGCU. The university’s unexpected backtrack comes with an even bigger surprise. It is nixing the main entrance bike access improvements that would finally bring it closer to the standard of the roads it connects to by claiming “environmental concerns” and “future plans for the entrance.” The bigger surprise is that the “future plans” are already happening: it is somehow creating an elaborate entrance instead, something the university never mentioned as the TIGER plan moved forward, all the way to final design and as recently as a TIGER stakeholder meeting just a few weeks ago.
Since the inception of FGCU, it has resisted making access to the campus bike/ped-friendly, even though both the university andLee Countyincluded bike lanes and sidepaths on the campus’s internal road andBen Hill Griffin Parkway, respectively. When it first opened, the campus’s main entrance initially lacked even one non-motorized access feature. No bike lanes, bike path or even a sidewalk. After a lot of pressure was put on, FGCU added a pedestrian-scaled sidepath (i.e., sidewalk) on one side of the four-lane entrance road that it considered adequate to accommodate all non-motorized traffic. The north entrance, created a few years after the other, is no better, having only a sidepath on one side.
The TIGER grant project was supposed to add a multi-use path on the south side of the main entrance. Early in the TIGER process it balked at the bikes lanes, so the south side path was reluctantly approved as the only feature to be added. But much to the dismay of many who worked so hard on this project, and even though it would cost nothing, FGCU later decided that allowing even that was going to be difficult, supposedly because they would have trouble obtaining necessary environmental permits. That reason apparently was its own $1.5 million plan, which creates an entrance that completely ignores those on foot or bike. Oh, did I mention the university announced this grand entrance plan just days before a public meeting is scheduled to take input on its master plan update and never told the folks on the TIGER grant stakeholder committee about it at the earlier mentioned meeting? So much for transparency and serving as a model of sustainability. For more about this and many other important community matters, visit bikewalklee.blogspot.com.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways.
— Dan Moser is a long- time bicycle/ pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org 334- 6417.