Saturday, December 15, 2012

FDOT's 5-year work plan is a mixed bag for bike/ped projects

 FDOT's first transportation funding decisions for Lee County since the new federal transportation legislation (MAP-21) were presented at Friday's MPO Board meeting and include both good and bad news for bike/ped projects.
Background:  In June of each year, the Lee MPO submits its 5-year list of priority projects to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for consideration.  FDOT reviews the list against available resources and decides in Nov./Dec. what projects to fund.  BikeWalkLee reviewed the FDOT draft plan 2013-2018 and made comments about the plan at MPO committee and board meetings in December.  The draft work plan was approved by the MPO Board on Dec. 14th.  The following are highlights of BikeWalkLee's analysis and comments.

This is the first workplan we've gotten from FDOT since the transportation reauthorization bill was enacted by Congress (MAP-21), and there are lots of changes and impacts on Lee County, as well as lots of questions.  MAP-21 made changes in the funding streams but overall, the FL total dollar amount was about the same as 2012 and states have flexibility to move money among all the categories, so the distributions reflect policy choices by FDOT.

·       Compared to previous years, funding of bike/ped projects was down significantly.  The MPO requested funding for $9.2 M for 25 stand-alone bike/ped projects (including $2.36 M for 4 regional enhancement projects (one of which in Collier Co.).

·       Only 13 projects were funded for a total of $5.7 M, or only 62% of our request.  None of the regional enhancement projects were funded, including the outstanding top two Collier/Lee priorities-- both are in planning/design phase: River of Grass Greenways (ROGG) ($700 K) & the Able Canal Greenways project in Lehigh ($300 K).

·       In total, this year's funding level is a 50% cut from the funding levels we've received for the past 4 years.

·       On the positive side, there were several important sidewalk projects in Cape Coral that are on the list.  Of particular importance is the decision to advance the Chiquita Blvd. sidewalks project ($740 K) so that it will begin next year.

·       In addition, there was as an increase in roadway projects that include safety improvements for bicyclists, pedestrians, as well as transit users, evidence of FDOT's commitment to improving safety for vulnerable road users.  There are 8 road projects for a total $6.4 million which will enhance safety for vulnerable road users.  This is double the number of projects in 2012, and a 56% increase in funding level.

At Friday's MPO Board meeting, BikeWalkLee's Darla Letourneau asked the Board to adopt the four recommended changes to the FDOT work plan proposed by MPO advisory committees, including funding for the trolley lane study for Fort Myers Beach, the two regional enhancement projects, and another technical language recommendation.  

MPO staff had worked with FDOT staff to find funding for the Fort Myers Beach trolley study, so that recommendation has been taken care of.  With respect to the 2 regional enhancement projects (recreational trails), the Board did not include those recommendations in the motion to adopt the work plan.  However, FDOT staff reiterated its commitment to the River of Grass Greenways project and agreed to review its policies and approaches to figure out how to fund regional trail projects in the future.  Lee MPO staff is reviewing whether there are other funds available that could be redirected to the Able Canal Greenways project.  These projects will be resubmitted in January for consideration in the June funding cycle.

Report by Darla Letourneau

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