Tuesday, January 10, 2012

BikeWalkLee report on County Commission’s 1/10/11 action on Estero Blvd. design study

At Tuesday’s BoCC meeting, the commissioners acted on LeeDOT’s proposal to provide a consultant for the preliminary design of the improvements to the Estero Boulevard corridor from the west end of San Carlos Bridge to the south end of Estero Island in Fort Myers Beach. The county solicited letters of interest, receiving 13, and presented the top 5 ranked firms. The Board authorized LeeDOT to negotiate with the number one ranked firm, TY Lin International. Commissioner Judah requested that the study evaluate the option of burying the utility lines, which could have the benefit of providing more right-of-way for bike/ped facilities.

At the meeting, Darla Letourneau on behalf of BikeWalkLee support in favor of the design study. She said that the design of this study is consistent with the new transportation planning process outlined in the complete streets implementation report and can serve as a model for how to plan holistically & engage the community. We are pleased to see that the study design will incorporate Lee County’s Complete Streets and Sustainability guidelines, that the consultant will take a corridor perspective, will be required to address the safety for all road users, look at capacity improvement, transit, drainage improvements and utility relocations.

Estero Blvd. is a key economic engine for the county, as it is located in the tourist destination of Fort Myers Beach; therefore, making this road work better for everyone should be a high priority for the county. With the limited ROW on this narrow barrier island, it is essential that the redesign of this area rely heavily on making it a pedestrian/bicycle/transit-friendly. Sanibel has proven that a safe and accessible path network can take cars off the road—an estimated 10% of all trips are taken by foot or bicycle. It’s also important that the FMB trolley study (discussed at the last MPO meeting) be an integral part of this study. It’s these alternative forms of transportation that are the key to improving access and safety to this area.

Over the past year, improvements to biking facilities from the outskirts of downtown Fort Myers Beach all the way to Bonita Beach Rd. in Bonita Springs have demonstrated the potential for improved biking and highlighted the need to fill the gap from San Carlos Blvd. to the other side of downtown FMB.

It is important that this study bring all the stakeholders to the table and engage the community in a new way. BikeWalkLee looks forward to participating in this effort to improve the Estero Blvd. corridor for all users and to make Fort Myers Beach a more walkable/bikeable community.

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