Tuesday, April 15, 2014

BoCC approves Palomino Lane Shared Use Path CIP Project Proposal

BikeWalkLee, along with several residents in the Palomino Lane community, weighed in with County Commissioners (both in 4/10 letter and during public comments at 4/15 meeting) in support of the Palomino Lane shared use path CIP project and funding proposal, which BoCC approved at their April 15th meeting.
Lee County Commissioners

Palomino Lane was one of the first roads the complete streets working group (which BikeWalkLee serves on) reviewed in 2010.  It was clear that this street met the criteria for improvement.  It had major safety problems, a dense population (approximately 5,000), school children trying to get to and from bus stops, lack of access to the many shops and amenities on Daniels, and several LeeTran bus stops.  However, due to the staff's projected costs and the drainage and right-of-way issues, no improvements were programmed. 

Over the past six months, the residents organized to work with the county on trying to find a way to address the serious safety concerns for all road users due to the lack of any bike/ped facilities along Palomino Lane.  Under the effective leadership of residents John Harney (now member of BPAC) and Craig Deardon (member of Cape Coral Bike-Ped), a proposal for an 8 foot pathway was developed, along with an innovative funding approach that sets aside road impact fees that the City of Fort Myers has collected from residents of communities off Palomino that are located in the City.  The funds collected will be set aside for this project until it is fully funded.
Palomino Lane

BikeWalkLee representative Darla Letourneau spoke in support of the proposal and commended the community, Commissioner Pendergrass, Lee DOT staff, the City of Fort Myers, and the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), for working together on this proposal.

According to Letourneau, with both the current impact fee dollars and the projected funds coming in when the 80% reduction in impact fees ordinance expires in March 2015, approximately $500,000 of the $1.9 M total cost--26%-- can be funded through the account set up by today's action. Additional funds will be needed to move this project forward. 

As Letourneau pointed out, there are lessons to be learned from both the Palomino and Fiddlesticks communities' recent efforts to get bike/ped facilities that connect them to Daniels Parkway.  Part of the philosophy of complete streets is "doing it right the first time" and addressing the needs of ALL users at the beginning of the process rather than expensive retrofits later.  Both these cases are reminders that biking and walking facilities up to Daniels Parkway should have been included in the development of these communities--each with about 6,000 residents.  Since these developments were constructed (some as early as the 1980s and others in the 2000's) these residents have had to struggle with no safe biking and walking facilities to access all the destinations on Daniels.  
BWL's Darla Letourneau

Next month (May 6th), BoCC will be asked award the first contract for phase one of the 2-year effort to construct the Fiddlesticks path they approved in 2012.  After 10 years of effort, the Fiddlesticks community will see their much-needed shared use path completed by 2016, just in time to take advantage of the improvements to the Daniels Parkway path system being constructed with the TIGER grant funds.  Unfortunately, the Palomino community could be waiting much longer.   Letourneau urged commissioners and staff to continue to work with the community to find ways to move this needed safety project forward expeditiously.  

Three members of the Palomino Lane community (including John Harney and Craig Deardon) spoke in support of the project and talked about their personal experiences with unsafe conditions on Palomino Lane for cyclists and pedestrians.  Residents had researched where their impact fees had gone and found that they were used in other locations, not to provide needed transportation facilities on Palomino, which gave rise to their proposal to set-aside the City of Fort Myers impact fees being collected from those communities and transferred to the county.  The speakers thanked both Commissioner Pendergrass and LeeDOT Director Dave Loveland for their efforts.

Both the Fiddlesticks and Palomino projects are good examples of the importance of communities coming together to ask for bike/ped facilities and working with their elected officials and county staff to address their safety and accessibility needs. BikeWalkLee has supported both these projects, but it was the citizens in each of the communities that made them happen.  Kudos to all the citizens in communities off of Fiddlesticks and Palomino who worked to make this happen.  Yes, citizen involvement can really result in improving your community!  Be inspired!

Report by Darla Letourneau

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