Saturday, March 1, 2014

Lee County Advisory Committees review key transportation element of New Horizon 2035 Lee Plan

This is the second of two blog posts reporting on actions at the February Lee County advisory committees on the ongoing review of the New Horizon 2035 Lee Plan elements.  This blog story focuses on the important transportation element.

In addition to acting on two elements (see previous blog post), both the Community Sustainability Advisory Committee (CSAC) and the Local Planning Agency (LPA) reviewed the transportation element  (see Transportation element ) at their February meetings.  CSAC made recommendations on the transportation element (link to CSAC recommendations) at its Feb. 19th meeting.  

At its Feb. 24th meeting, the LPA heard the staff's presentation, the CSAC recommendations, and public comment, discussed the element, but carried it forward to the March 24th meeting for action so that it could be considered in tandem with the land use element that is to be presented at the 3/24 meeting. 

At its Feb. 19th meeting, the CSAC adopted recommendations to the transportation element, as proposed by its joint Horizon 2035 and Complete Streets working groups.  These recommendations were presented by the CSAC at the LPA on 2/24.  Click here to read the full recommendations

Transportation Element Recommendations By CSAC

BikeWalkLee's representative, Darla Letourneau, spoke in support of the CSAC recommendations at the 2/24 LPA meeting, highlighting several items:

Letourneau thanked Andy Getch and other Lee County staff that have been working diligently on the transportation element for three years.  This draft is a significant improvement over the November 2012 draft, and a sea change from the current Transportation Element in the Comp Plan.  Letourneau stated that there are many new policies that will go a long way towards integrating a complete streets and multi-modal approach in the way the county will do business in the future.

Letourneau spoke in support of the CSAC recommendations, which fall into a few simple categories: recommendations made by the CSAC in 2012 that were not incorporated; new developments, primarily by the Lee MPO, that need to be incorporated; and minor edits for clarity or consistency.

Letourneau highlighted several CSAC recommendations, including the proposed new section on preserving the rail corridor for future transportation purposes, as endorsed by the Lee MPO Board in November. The preservation of this corridor is a critical part of the county's long-term multi-modal vision.  While the maximum use of this asset may not be realized for decades, supporting FDOT's purchase of this ROW is an important first step.

She also highlighted the additional language recommended on LOS and the alternative multi-modal methodology. Auto-LOS has been one of BWL's primary concerns, as it has a detrimental effect on a healthy multi-model transportation system, livable communities, and economic development.  Why?  If roads must move cars fast, then they have to be wider and raise speed limits--making them less safe for users, destroying opportunities for infill, and raising construction and maintenance costs for the county.

Consistent with CSAC and LPA's recommendations in 2012, the revised TE draft proposes to develop an alternative multi-modal methodology in cooperation with the MPO as it develops its 2040 LRTP, which means the current auto LOS system, supplemented with new transit and bike/ped LOS measures, will be continued until the MPO alternative is developed or until 2016. 

A key component of the CSAC's 2012 recommendation was not contained in this 2014 draft--adding the objectives of the alterative methodology being developed jointly by the MPO and County.  BikeWalkLee thinks it's important to identify these objectives so that its clear to the parties developing the methodology as well as to the general public, what this new approach is intended to accomplish.   Letourneau also emphasized the need for County staff to be working collaboratively with the MPO staff now to develop the alternative methodology so that its ready for implementation by both agencies as soon as the MPO Board adopts the 2040 LRTP in Dec. 2015.

Advisory Committee Plans for March

At the March 19th CSAC meeting, they will review and make recommendations on the land use element, as well as on the maps and glossary.  At the March 24th LPA meeting, the CSAC will present its recommendations on the land use element to the LPA.  At this meeting, the LPA will complete a review of the transportation element and make recommendations, then will review and make recommendations on the land use elements, maps, and glossary.

At both the CSAC and LPA meetings an opportunity for public comment is always provided, so if you have comments you would like to make on either the transportation element or the land use element, the LPA meeting on March 24th would be the best place to make them. See the Feb. 14th blog post for full details about the Horizon 2035 schedule, the meeting locations and times, and links to elements that have been reviewed to date.  

 Assuming the LPA completes action on these elements at its March 24th meeting, this will conclude the review process, clearing the way for presentation of the full 2035 Horizon Plan to the BoCC by May, the culmination of four years of hard work by the staff, several committees, and public engagement in the process.  We are hopeful that this major update in the Lee Plan will be adopted by the Board by the Fall (following the required state review).

Report by Darla Letourneau

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