Wednesday, February 20, 2013

County and Town Officials discuss Estero Blvd. improvement project

On Wednesday, BoCC and the Town of Fort Myers Beach held a joint workshop and discussed the Estero Blvd. road improvement project.  There was support for the project's planning process now underway.  The Town requested that a plan for funding and constructing all phases of the project be developed by BoCC this year, with the goal of funding the next phase of the project as soon as phase I is completed in 2013-14.  BikeWalkLee's recommendations, including a roundabout, were discussed.

 On Wednesday, the BoCC and Town Council of Fort Myers Beach held their annual joint workshop, with two items on the agenda  Estero Blvd and Traffic; and  Seafarer's Property and General Area) that relate to the Estero Blvd. road improvement project.

The Town Council's lead on the Estero Blvd. project, Councilman Joe Kosinski, expressed appreciation to the County for the work underway on the design of the Estero Blvd. improvement project, highlighted the County's excellent Town Hall website, and stated that the project was being designed following complete streets concepts and consistent with BikeWalkLee recommendations.  While the Council was pleased with the process and the design of Phase I, which is funded at $7 million for the first of the 6 miles of the project, Commissioner Kiker and the Town Council expressed concern about the County's commitment to funding and constructing the remaining 5 miles.  Mayor Mandel asked for the county to come up with a plan this year to fund the rest of the project.  It was estimated that the total cost of the project is approximately $40 million.  Commissioner Mann warned that the county didn't have the money to fund the remainder of this project.  

Commissioner Mann also raised the roundabout idea, referencing BikeWalkLee's memo.  He stated his support for the use of roundabouts.  The Town agreed that it needs to be considered as part of the Estero Blvd. project and as part of the consideration for plans for the Seafarer property.  As a next step to determining the best use of the Seafarer site, commissioner Manning suggested that ULI be invited to do a charette to discuss options for the uses of this area and the Town agreed to that approach.  Commissioner Manning highlighted this project as an example of the type of in-fill development that the county wants to encourage.

There was concern by both Town and County Commissioners about the potential increase in traffic that will happen with the Ebb Tide development project that was just approved.  Commissioner Manning said that when the development order comes before the BoCC, they will require that traffic impacts be mitigated. 

Click here for the News-Press story about the meeting.
In advance of this meeting, BikeWalkLee sent a letter to both BoCC and the Town Council, transmitting again a copy of our earlier report and recommendations for the Estero Blvd. improvement project.  Below are excerpts from our letter:

 "As we have stated to both the MPO Board and the BoCC on numerous occasions, we believe that improving Estero Blvd. should be the top transportation priority for the county, given the economic value of this roadway to Lee County's tourism industry.  With the limited ROW on this narrow barrier island, it is essential that the redesign of this area focus on making it significantly more pedestrian/bicycle/transit-friendly, with a goal of achieving real transportation mode shifts. 

Last June, Mayor Kiker invited BikeWalkLee to analyze the Town's North Estero Blvd. improvement project to determine if the incorporated bike/ped/transit facilities can serve as a model for the larger county Estero Blvd. improvement project, and what improvements or changes may be needed.  On June 8th, a team from BikeWalkLee conducted a site visit and wrote a comprehensive report withrecommendations, that was transmitted to both the Fort Myers Mayor and Vice-Mayor, and to LeeDOT.  As you discuss the Estero Blvd. project at next week's workshop, I wanted to bring your attention to our suggestions for this important project and have attached our report for your review.

Below are some highlights of our suggestions:
  • The North Estero Blvd. project is truly a model complete street, and the town and county should strive to design the larger 6-mile Estero Blvd. improvement project similar to this model.
  • A roundabout at the entrance to Fort Myers Beach, at the base of Matanzas Bridge would greatly improve safety for all road users, esp. pedestrians, slow down traffic, and improve traffic flow, as well as providing a signature "gateway" to the town.  It is important that the discussions on the Seafarer Property take into account the potential ROW needs for a roundabout and/or other Estero roadway improvements in this area.
  •  Bike lanes should be provided (both sides of road) on Estero Blvd.
  • There should be dedicated left turn lanes vs. continuous left (suicide lanes)
  • The speed limit "downtown" should be lowered to 25 mph
  •  Improved pedestrian crossings should be installed and made highly visible from a maximum distance
  • Enhanced trolley access (which is important), should not come at the expense of safety and facilities for those cycling onto the island.  The solution must be truly multi-modal.
  • Although not part of the current scope of the Estero Blvd. improvement project, major improvements are needed on San Carlos Blvd. from Summerlin up to the Matanzas Pass Bridge to make them safer for all road users, and our report includes a series of suggestions (see p. 4)
  •  Our report also suggests some inexpensive things that can be done now to improve the road for both pedestrians and cyclists, as we wait for this improvement project to be completed (p. 5-6)
The County's online Town Hall MindMixer tool is an outstanding way to get public input and have a community dialogue on the Estero Blvd. Improvement Project.  To date, 89 people have participated in the conversation and there are lots of good ideas being shared.  If you haven't checked out the online conversation lately, it may be of interest.

We applaud the Town Council of Fort Myers Beach for its aggressive efforts to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety on Estero Blvd. and appreciate the ongoing work of your Safety Committee.  We know from research that complete streets are not only safer streets for everyone, but also support a robust local economy.  We look forward to seeing Estero Blvd. as Lee County's signature complete street model.

We look forward to participating with both the County and the Town in the development of the design of the Estero Blvd. improvement project."

1 comment:

  1. I hope they can incorporate more transit to the island. I hate that traffic.


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