Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lee County's approved 2013 budget includes 5-year plan for multiple complete streets projects and new bike/ped facilities

 On Sept. 19, 2012, the Lee BoCC approved the county budget for 2013 (vote of 4-1), which included the transportation budget.  The budget includes significant funds for complete streets projects and bike/ped facilities--$2.6 million for stand-alone projects in 2013-14 and $19.4 million over the 5 year period.  In addition, ALL the planned road expansions over the next 5 years--$50 million worth--include plans for bike/ped facilities; and $8 million of that total will be funded in 2013-14.  Kudos to the County for increasing complete streets-related investments.  These projects will be constructed over the next five years and BikeWalkLee will keep you up to date as the projects move forward.

Last year, as called for in the BoCC-approved Action Plan to implement the 2009 Complete Streets Resolution, the staff developed a revised transportation planning and budgeting process.  This year is the first time that the new approach has been used to develop the 5-year transportation funding plan, reflected in the CIP.  The staff is to be commended for its interdepartmental team effort in developing this plan.  The transportation CIP, as approved by the BoCC on Sept. 19, 2012, is an improvement over previous years and reflects a first step in implementing the new approach. The staff has done an excellent job of ensuring that all planned road projects include bike/ped facilities in their designs.  It is our hope that as the collaborative county staff process evolves, road projects will be evaluated in terms of the broader complete streets and sustainability goals and priorities the county has articulated. 

With respect to the exclusively complete streets projects, the CIP does not yet include many of the projects that were recommended by the staff complete streets team, CSAC and BPAC over the past 2 years  as part of the review of the resurfacing contracts.  There are many excellent projects on this list that need to be costed out, prioritized and added to the 5-year CIP.  We hope those projects will be incorporated into next year's transportation CIP.

Highlights of complete streets-related projects

BikeWalklee's two highest priority complete streets projects were included in the approved CIP.  First,  $7 million is budgeted over the next 5 years for the Estero Blvd. improvement project on Fort Myers Beach, but the $39 million needed to complete construction is in the 6-10 year window.  With the limited ROW on this narrow barrier island, it is essential that the redesign of this area rely heavily on making it pedestrian/bicycle/transit-friendly. 

Second, we supported the Lehigh Community's package of complete streets projects (approximately $2.1 million), several of which were added to the county's proposed budget.  Planning funds for two Lehigh activity centers ($556,800) were added to the planning department budget.  The BOCC provided funding for the community’s primary CIP request, pulling $1.5 million from ad valorem CIP funds to pay for the engineering phase for the reconstruction of the one mile stretch of Homestead Rd. in the Downtown Activity Center in FY 12/13 to be compatible with the recommendations included in the downtown design study.  This project is to include both the landscaped median and additional streetscape such as covered swales and road construction improvements.   The Lehigh roundabout (Beth Stacey Blvd/Business Way Loop), already in the 2012 budget for $750,000, will come to the Board soon in a blue sheet for vote on implementing.

BikeWalkLee recommended to the Board that several bike/ped/complete streets projects scheduled for later years to be moved up to next year--specifically, the Fiddlesticks Blvd. shared use path project ($850 K) and the Heritage Palms shared use path gap on the new 6 Mile Cypress widening project ($150 k). However, the Board did not approve this request, which would have required a shifting of funds around in the CIP to allow for these projects to be moved up.  

Attachment:  Lee County's Approved Transportation Capital Improvement Plan (CIP): 2013-2018  (detailed project funding list) (as approved by the Board 9/19/12)

Report by Darla Letourneau

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