Monday, October 24, 2011

BikeWalkLee views on proposed Heartland Parkway

BikeWalkLee recently wrote a guest opinion piece (9/14/11) in News-Press expressing our concerns about the Governor’s new Florida transportation plan. On Friday, the joint Lee/Collier discussed the one project in his plan that impacts Southwest Florida—the Heartland Parkway.

BikeWalkLee’s representative, Darla Letourneau spoke at the meeting and expressed our concerns that this proposed project is inconsistent with the goals and objectives of the Florida 2060 Transportation Plan and the Lee County MPO’s Long Range Transportation Plan. Both of those plans focused on the need to balance & integrate transportation modes and investments to promote sustainable economic development. Transportation investments should focus on multi-modal transportation. Transportation investments need to promote economic development in the existing urban areas, not create new areas. They should maximize the use of existing transportation facilities and explore opportunities for improved connectivity before adding new facilities.

The Heartland Parkway proposal is a classic example of the old way of thinking—just build bigger, faster roads and hat will solve our transportation needs. This is the same failed approach that caused Florida’s housing and economic downturn, and is a formula for more sprawl. These are tough economic times: it’s very important to use our scarce resources wisely. This project will divert funds from SWFL’s transportation priorities. Our transportation priorities will suffer if planning studies are undertaken for this potential road project. If the road is actually built, nothing will be left for our priorities.

Other organizations spoke against the proposal, including the Audubon Society of Collier County and the Estero Council of Community Leaders. They pointed out that this proposal has the process backwards—land use should be planned first and then the transportation plans should work to implement the land use plan. The Heartland proposal builds new roads first and assumes that development will occur where the roads are, bringing the kind of sprawl we have on the coast to the inland area.

We urge both MPOs to send a strong message to the Governor that this project is not consistent with this community’s vision of the future for Southwest Florida. Our local elected officials should decide what’s best for our communities and region, not Tallahassee.

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