by Ken Gooderham
|Photo: The News-Press|
However, turning a litany of campaign promises into actual funded infrastructure projects can take a torturous trail to achieve. Suppose, for a moment, such political promises do become legislative reality and a significant sum is allocated to build and rebuild the bones that run our country and economy.
What would (or could) that mean for Southwest Florida?
Let’s take a slightly contrarian view and say we really don’t need more roads. We may need to enhance their capacity and maintain the ones we have while bringing them up to current design standards – which would be good for bikers and walkers if it helps complete some of our streets.
But if we want to guide this infrastructural investment in a way that create not just jobs, but value as well, we need to focus on our most significant industry (tourism) in such ways as to make this a more attractive area to visit, live and work.
Three assets ripe for improvement come to mind:
- Natural infrastructure: Investment that can enhance or protect our still-considerable natural resources. We’re talking beaches and bays here, but also waters safe to fish and swim in and preservation lands open for recreation. Targeting projects that could keep our natural assets safe (or at least not let then deteriorate any further) would support a lot of jobs and future economic health.
- Bike/ped infrastructure: Not only does this give people who play and stay here another recreational amenity (hey, you can only spend so many days at the beach!), but it enhances mobility and safety by making it easier to get around our area in something other than a motor vehicle. (That matters for a number of workers as well as those who ride or walk for fun.) These are also “fast to build and quick to contribute” kinds of projects – and ones where our existing backlog could offer a fast return on a funding investment.
- Mass transit: This area is getting closer and closer to the point where it needs to find other ways to move people and things both to here and around here. If you’re not quite ready for high-speed passenger rail, then how about building capacity to bring in goods and materials by plain old rail – and getting some of those big long-haul trucks off the road? And I bet if you could offer them a way to get into light rail or buses to get to and from work, a lot of those people stuck on the interstate every rush hour might be happy to leave the driving to you.
But simply building more roads won’t help our tourism economy. Building more value through innovative investment will.
Cape project wins more fundingSpeaking of infrastructure investment, the Florida Dept. of Transportation (FDOT) just announced $44.4 million in funding under the Shared Use Nonmotorized (SUN) Trail program for 45 projects around the state, which will add or improve miles of shared-use trails around Florida.
Of particular local interest is the $1.78 million allocated for Cape Coral’s Kismet Parkway multi-use path – which brings the funding total up to $3.6 million for the project’s first phase, from Burnt Store Road to Nelson Road. This project will eventually go to Del Prado Blvd., and is part of the statewide Coast to Coast SUN Bike Trail.
Congratulations once more to the Cape Coral public-private team that is turning the Cape from a bike-barren burgh to a very bike-friendly city.
Biking, walking to happier holidaysWhile we always encourage people to enjoy the plentiful opportunities to bike, walk and run in Southwest Florida, holidays such as Thanksgiving are an especially excellent time to hit the trails and paths.
- To create family-friendly moments. Biking and, in particular, walking is something almost all of your family and visitors can do… so you can do it together.
- To give everyone a little space. Getting on each others nerves? Get out and go for a walk or ride… it breaks up the routine and break downs some of the bad family habits we all can fall prey to.
- To burn off some calories. Even the most prudent among us can partake a little too festively this time of year. Moving around is still the best remedy to too much food… so get moving!
Ready to ride or run?Run: Hopefully, you got up early this morning to enjoy one of the numerous Turkey Trots around our area. If not, plan to be part of the 38th annual City of Palm River Run, a 10K (and 2-mile fun run) on Saturday, Dec. 3, in downtown Fort Myers (ftmyersttrackclub.com). Collier County Public Schools are also holding a 5K run/1-mile wellness walk that day at Barron Collier High School (gcrunner.org).
Ride: Need to shake off the post-turkey (or post-Black Friday) blues? Critical Mass to the rescue, with rides Friday (Cape Coral), Saturday (downtown starter ride) and Dec. 2 (downtown classic ride). Details and RSVP at http://www.meetup.com/Biking-SWFL/events. Want more? Join the 11th annual Fit & Fuel Iron Joe Turkey Ride Nov. 27 in Naples, with 62-, 30- and 20-mile options (https://raceroster.com/events/2016/9300/fit-fuel-iron-joe-turkey-ride). There’s also the Turkey Leg Century on Nov. 25, leaving from Daniels Crossing in Fort Myers at 7:30 a.m. for Sanibel, the Beach and Naples. Not for the novices. (caloosariders.org)
Both: Get ready for the Christmas with a sprint tri (or duathlon) on Dec. 18 at Sugden Regional Park, Naples (eliteevents.org).
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RIDE:
Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at email@example.com, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.
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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County - streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at www.BikeWalkLee.org.