Saturday, January 21, 2012

Complete Streets approach resulting in rethinking of roadway designs: Pending amendments to MPO’s Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP)

At the January 20th MPO Board meeting, BikeWalkLee’s representative, Darla Letourneau spoke in support of proposed amendments to five roadway projects in the LRTP that were the result of the county’s implementation of complete streets.

After the LRTP plan was adopted last December, LeeDOT re-examined the county’s list of road projects approved in the MPO’s 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan in terms of complete streets principles and a further review of the traffic model analysis. As a result of this analysis, the staff determined that five road projects (2 in Cost Feasible Plan-- Buckingham Rd from Orange River Blvd to SR 80 & Sandy Lane from Strike Lane to Pelican Colony Blvd.; and 3 in Needs Plan— Crystal Drive from US 41 to Plantation Rd., Plantation Rd. from Six Mile Cypress to Idlewild St., & Alabama Rd. from 40th St. to Sunrise Blvd.) slated for widening from two to four lanes should be reduced to a two lane divided roadway with median and turn lanes.

Letourneau stated that this proposed change in plans will result in roadways that take into account the needs of all users, improve safety, enhance the livability of the surrounding communities, and at the same time save the county and its taxpayer’s money. According to a preliminary estimate by MPO staff, this change in these five road projects will reduce the cost of these projects by $58.5 million.

BikeWalkLee is excited to see the complete streets principles applied to how road projects are planned and designed…it’s not just about adding bike and pedestrian facilities to road projects…it’s also about taking a holistic approach to transportation & land use planning for long term economic development, livability, and sustainability. It’s also about improving our existing roadways before expanding capacity.
We are realizing that there are many other ways to address “congestion” than to add new lanes.

For those that might think that “complete streets is too expensive”…this is an excellent example of how this new way of thinking can not only improve the quality of life in our communities but also save taxpayers money. BikeWalkLee looks forward to the opportunity to apply this approach to other roads in the cost-feasible and needs plan, such as Ortiz Avenue.

Letourneau thanked David Loveland, LeeDOT Director, for initiating these proposed changes and urged the Board to approve the amendments when they come for a vote at the February 17th meeting.

In response to a question from Fort Myers City Councilman Tom Leonardo about whether he thought the Buckingham Rd. change would work, Commissioner Frank Mann responded that he was fully in support and that the road would be safer and better for the community with this approach.

In a related matter, Councilman Leonardo commented that the Colonial Blvd. expansion of lanes from 2 to 3 lanes to SR 82 was nearing completion and that the additional lane had totally alleviated the congestion problem. He pointed out that this $30 million fix was all that was needed—not a $928 million Colonial Blvd. expressway that had been proposed. He said we should continue to revisit road plans—nothing should be chiseled in stone.

Cape Coral Councilman Kevin McGrail commented that a similar revisiting of a road plan was needed on the Veterans/Santa Barbara intersection proposals. He suggested to LeeDOT that instead of spending $15 million to fix one intersection that will only move traffic to the next intersection and solve nothing, that they take a holistic & corridor approach and instead put in Michigan left turns at all of the intersections on Veterans Parkway. He argued that this was the most cost effective answer and would give us a decade or more of a traffic solution.

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