Friday, June 17, 2011

MPO Board OK's idea of potential bike/ped/complete streets application for TIGER III grant

Good news! At the 6/17/11 MPO meeting, the Board agreed to ask staff to scope out a bike/ped/complete streets project tied to the new countywide bike/ped master plan, as proposed by BikeWalkLee, for a potential application for a federal discretionary grant called TIGER III.

Starting in 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation has run a competitive discretionary grant program to fund innovative multi-modal transportation infrastructure projects. To date, there have been two rounds (TIGER I ($1.5 billion) and TIGER II ($600 million), with a third round of $528 million to be awarded in the fall. The Lee MPO applied for a TIGER I grant (rail proposal) but was not successful.

Secretary LaHood has pitched TIGER III grants as an opportunity to create livable communities that treat cycling and walking as valued elements of the nation’s transportation system. In addition, TIGER is a key program in the Administration’s 3-Department Partnership for Sustainable Communities initiative.

Why a Bike/Ped Project:
BikeWalkLee developed the concept for a bike/ped/complete streets grant proposal and presented it to the MPO committees (BPCC, TAC, and CAC) earlier this month and again today at the MPO Board meeting and received support for the concept. The Board asked staff to scope out this proposal and bring it back to the Board in August.

Here’s the case we made for why a bike/ped/complete streets project application is a winning idea for the Lee MPO:
• BikeWalkLee analyzed the winning grants and found that approximately half of TIGER I and II grants had bike/ped/complete streets elements. In TIGER II, 17% of the projects were primarily bike/ped/complete streets.
• Lee County is perfectly positioned with all the pieces coming together at this moment—complete streets policies (with a new one moving through process in the City of Fort Myers), an EAR that incorporates complete streets into land use planning, a new countywide bike/ped master plan.
• Countywide bike/ped master plan has created a plan for a connected bike/ped network, filling the gaps, and addressing the safety concerns. Having local jurisdictions committed to funding some of these projects with their own funds can qualify as matching funds, a key requirement.

Project idea:
o Take the MPO bike/ped master plan and link the three demonstration projects together, then build on that to connect to FGCU, to the destinations/jobs/housing in area, going through Bonita Springs on old 41 to new US 41 & connect to Collier & link with Lee/Collier transit link, which provides a transit as well as regional component. The focus will be on bringing FGCU students & staff to campus by transit/bike/walk.
o To the north, link the complete streets demo project to downtown Fort Myers and connect to the 10-Mile Linear Trail & to the Lee Tour de Parks Loop. The Parks loop would then link to the University Loop along Treeline Blvd.
o By linking the 3 demos together, there would be a connected corridor of biking & walking facilities from downtown Fort Myers down to FGCU and then linked to Collier County by transit.

Next Steps:

• MPO staff will pull together the appropriate agencies, organizations and individuals, with BPCC involvement, to scope out this proposal and bring it back to the Board for review in August.
• Grant applications to USDOT are likely to be due in late October.

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