Friday, February 22, 2013

Report from Feb. 22nd MPO Board meeting

At Friday's MPO Board meeting, several topics of interest to BikeWalkLee were discussed: the 2012 annual report on implementation of the countywide bike/ped master plan was presented, a letter to the FL state legislative delegation in support of a ban on texting while driving was approved, and the Board authorized the Chair to work with staff on developing a policy framework for the LRTP 2040 process.

Bike/Ped Master Plan Implementation report
MPO staff presented the first annual report on the implementation of the bike/ped master plan,  adopted by the board in June 2011.  BikeWalkLee's Darla Letourneau spoke during public comment and thanked Don Scott and Ron Gogoi as well as BPCC for preparing this excellent report.  A great deal of progress is being made by the agencies and municipalities in filling the gaps in our bike/ped facilities so we have a connected and safe network of bike/ped facilities; and we're beginning to implement the plan's 65 policy recommendations.  As reported by BWL in October, the county has constructed 148 lane miles of new biking and walking facilities in the past 3 years.  She expressed appreciation to the Board for the efforts and progress made by each municipality and agency and encouraged them to continue to make this a priority.

Texting while driving letter
The Board approved a letter to our state legislative delegation in support of legislation to ban texting while driving.  Mayor Sullivan suggested that the letter needed to be strengthened to ban all use of cellphones while driving but the consensus of the Board was that it was better to take an incremental approach and focus on the first step of banning texting while driving.  During public comment, BWL's Darla Letourneau thanked the Board for initiating this letter and noted three developments since the last Board meeting, which are a reminder of the dangers on our roadways and the need to take action on multiple fronts to address them: 
Lee County finished January with a record 12 traffic fatalities (highest since 2005), with 8 of the 12 being vulnerable road users (4 ped/2 bike*/2 motorcycle/4 cars). 
Last week's National Safety Council reported that 2012 traffic fatalities and injuries were both up 5% over 2011, with distracted driving as one of the potential factors in the increase;
FHP launched a campaign against hit-and-run drivers and noted that 60% of the victims are pedestrians. 
She also reported that a FL Senate committee has reported out a bill, making texting while driving a traffic offense (SB52) (secondary vs. primary offense).  This bill would exempt texting while stopped at a traffic light, which is of concern.  BikeWalkLee hopes that the bill is strengthened as it goes through the legislative process.
Policy framework for LRTP 2040
MPO Chairman Kevin Ruane suggested that with the major revenue shortfalls facing transportation funding as well as other demographic and economic realities, there was a need to begin now to look at the 2040 Plan in a different way.  He stated that we need to know how much money is projected to be coming in, how much it is going to cost to fully maintain what we have, and what is left over for any potential new/expanded facilities.  He stated that we're going to have to do more with less money and we need to have a project list that we can actually afford to do.  He asked staff to reach out to the Nashville, TN MPO to invite them to make a presentation to our MPO Board about how they reinvented their process by right-sizing their projects and reducing funding needs.

The Board voted unanimously to authorize Chairman Ruane to work with Don Scott (MPO staff director) to develop a framework for the 2040 LRTP process, including involvement of the Board in the policy discussions at the front end.  This topic will be an agenda item for the Board April 19th meeting.

The Board's representative to the Florida MPO Advisory Council, Councilman Leonardo, also spoke about the policy and legislative priorities of that group, some of which relate to the LRTP plan process.
Impact Fees
The Citizens Advisory Committee report highlighted the committee's resolution in opposition to the suspension of impact fees, which was transmitted to the BoCC earlier in the month.  Several board members representing municipalities spoke about the negative impact a suspension would have on their communities.

Citizen request for sidewalks in North Fort Myers
During public comment, Jane Antolini, a resident of North Fort Myers, asked the Board to consider filling the sidewalk gap between the Prairie Pines neighborhood and the new Publix complex.  MPO staff is working with FDOT to identify potential funds to address this gap.

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