Friday, November 8, 2013

BikeWalkLee voices concerns to BoCC with Lee County's transportation CIP

BikeWalkLee reports on Monday's BoCC discussion of several key road projects in the CIP, and shares Dr. Margaret Banyan's letter on the issue.  There is much at stake for the citizens of Lee County and the future direction of our county in this larger debate about transportation funding and priorities, so stay tuned and get involved!

 Report from Monday's BoCC Management and Planning workshop:
At Monday's BoCC Management and Planning meeting, the Board discussed 4 road projects in CIP--Estero Blvd., Alico widening, Homestead Rd., and Burnt Store Rd. "super street". This was the first time public comment was allowed at an M & P meeting and several local officials and citizens spoke at the meeting, including BWL's Ann Pierce (Estero Blvd. project as top priority) and Darla Letourneau, who spoke about the transportation funding realities--that there is a significant shortfall (60%) in revenues available to fund the county's CIP.  In addition, others who spoke were Paul Moreno (Tice and BPAC), Dave Ulrich (CAC), Sanibel Mayor Ruane, Fort Myers Beach Mayor Mandel, and Cape Coral Councilman McGrail.  In addition, several citizens wrote letters to BoCC members prior to the meeting, and this week's Cape Coral Breeze includes a related letter to the editor, "Sprawl's high cost to taxpayers," by Catherine Hughes.

 Click here for the link to the agenda package for background information.  

Note that the options paper for the 3 CIP projects was not posted on the website (and is still not available online) and only provided to BoCC members Friday night.  If you are interested in getting a copy, email  Commissioner Manning asked that in the future, staff provide background materials for meetings more in advance and post all the materials on the website.

Click here for a link to Tuesday's News-Press story about the meeting:

BikeWalkLee is pleased that the consensus of the Board was that the Estero Blvd. improvement project in Fort Myers Beach should be the #1 priority, preferring to make slight delays in the Alico widening project construction schedule to allow Estero Blvd. to move a bit quicker.  However, the Estero Blvd. timeline is still way too long (completion not planned until 2024!) and the Alico project moves ahead to spend money this year for the design phase of the project, even though this project is driven by an economic development concept vs. any traffic issues, and uses gas tax dollars vs. having the developers pay through an MSTU and/or impact fees.
Dr. Margaret Banyan's Letter 
Below is the letter sent by BWL's Dr. Margaret Banyan, which is a clear statement of what's at stake in this debate. Thanks to everyone who spoke or wrote to commissioners about these important issues.  

This is the beginning of a larger debate about the County's priorities, so stay tuned for future action alerts.  The specific items considered at the M and P meeting will come before the Board for a vote (likely at either Dec. 3rd or 17th regular BoCC meeting), and the public will have another opportunity to speak and write.  Note that the public can now speak on ANY issue (not just those on the agenda) at the end of each regular bi-weekly BoCC meeting (1st and 3rd Tuesday morning's at 9:30 a.m.), so you're encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity.  Sign-up for our blog e-mail updates or friend us on Facebook to get real-time information and action alerts.

 Report by Darla Letourneau


Dear Commissioners:

I would like the opportunity to comment on your upcoming M and P meeting in writing, as I am unable to attend.

As you know, I have been engaged in transportation planning in Lee County for some time through my involvement in BikeWalkLee, the MPO Citizen Advisory Committee, and the Tice Historic Planning Panel.  In addition, I conduct research on and serve on a national transportation panel. 

In all of these venues, it is clear that the provision of transportation is experiencing a major shift.  This shift is due to a two-part recognition that we simply cannot afford to build roads at our previous pace and that livable communities must take precedence over congestion management. 

With these two principles in mind, I read the materials that were posted very late on Friday afternoon in preparation for your M and P meeting today.  As a member of these committees and as a citizen of Lee County I was very disturbed at its implications.

First, even though the focus for the M and P meeting is on three road projects, there is a fundamental avoidance of the major issue.  Taken as a whole, all of the major road projects represent a significant hole in the county budget for which the funding sources are not known.  It is essential that the BoCC consider how to right size all of the project on the CIP list, rather than hoping that there will be funding at some point down the road.

Second, the options presented to fund this revenue hole are unrealistic and place a greater burden on tax payers over the long term.  The blue sheet before you ignores the life-cycle costs of these projects.  These projects will continue to place a long term burden on the county in maintenance and degradation of community livability.  Ultimately, the revenue source that you use to fund these projects will generate costs to the general fund and to tax payers that are not accounted for in your materials.  

Finally, on the surface your discussion appears to be about finances.  However, it is really about what kind of community your citizens are asking for.  Consistently across the county, your citizens, advisory boards, and planning panels have been communicating their desire for the BoCC to invest more in livability and neighborhoods than road expansion.  They have been communicating their desire for smart decisions that right-size road projects rather than blindly fund projects that no longer make sense in the current fiscal environment.

Thank you for the opportunity to have a voice in this discussion.  I, and my fellow neighbors, will continue to engage in these discussions, as they fundamentally affect our quality of life in Lee County.

Margaret Banyan 

Previous statements by BikeWalkLee on Transportation Planning and CIP Projects:

BikeWalkLee comments on the 2013 Lee County budget and pending Capital Improvement Plan decisions (6/18/13)
BikeWalkLee comments on Lee County CIP recommentdations (5/30/13)

BikeWalkLee overview comments on 10/26/12 Draft Transportation Element (11/25/12)
BikeWalkLee report: Moving Beyond Transportation Concurrency: A Path Forward for Lee County (11/12/12)
BikeWalkLee's comments on the county's proposed Capital Improvements Program (CIP) budget (6/18/12)

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