Tuesday, August 26, 2014

BikeWalkLee calls for comprehensive transportation planning at Aug. 22nd MPO Board meeting

At the Aug. 22nd Lee MPO Board meeting the Board debated at length whether to proceed with a study that would include examining a possible flyover option at the US 41 and Bonita Beach Rd. intersection.  After extensive public comment, including comments by BikeWalkLee's Ann Pierce, the Board voted 10-4 to suspend the FDOT study.  The Board also endorsed the LeeTran fare increase, which BWL also spoke in support of.

BikeWalkLee's comments on the US 41 and Bonita Beach Rd. intersection study:

Background on Bonita Springs Developments
To put BWL's comments at the MPO meeting in perspective, it's important to understand the context. As BWL reported on Aug. 10th, there have been several developments in Bonita Springs over the past month that signal support for complete streets and livable communities vision.

At the July 18th City Council meeting, two significant votes were taken:  The first was to fund a study to develop a vision for Bonita Beach Rd., with a focus on livability - bike/ped/transit and aesthetics. They then voted to halt continued funding for the next phase of the widening (to 6 lanes) of Bonita Beach Rd. pending the development of this area-wide transportation network vision. 
Subsequently, on Aug. 6th, FDOT announced that it would be formally recommending to the MPO Board on Aug. 22nd that its PD and E study currently underway for the US 41 and Bonita Beach Rd. intersection be halted until Bonita’s visioning study is completed so that the results of that study can inform the future of this important corridor. 

At the Council's August 6th meeting  there was a unanimous vote to direct staff to study the use of  mobility fees as a replacement for road impact fees so that these fees can be used for bike/ped/transit projects, not just roads. 

Then on Aug. 12th at the Bonita Springs City Council's workshop on the downtown redevelopment project, they voted unanimously to direct staff to develop a complete streets ordinance for Council's consideration this Fall.  Staff's presentation highlighted the importance of complete streets as a tool for implementing the city's adopted sustainability plan, for making the downtown a safe bikeable/walkable/livable place, using treatments such as roundabouts, traffic calming, median enhancements, on-street parking, and road diets.   
 [See link to the video of the Council workshop.  The discussion and action on Complete Streets occurs at 1:44-2:18 on the video.  

BikeWalkLee's Comments at MPO Meeting:
Ann Pierce spoke on behalf of BikeWalkLee about the Bonita Springs PD and E study and stated BWL's support for FDOT's recommendation to suspend the study. Pierce applauded the recent decision by the Bonita City Council to begin a Vision Plan for the whole of Bonita Beach Road - a plan, which if well conducted, can better inform a future FDOT Corridor Study.  She further applauded the Bonita City Council’s steps towards a coordinated Mobility Fee system and Complete Streets implementation.   BikeWalkLee sees these series of steps by the Bonita Springs City Council as the beginnings of a new model for comprehensive and integrated transportation planning. 
Ann Pierce

Pierce advocated that the future FDOT study begin with the big picture well before narrowing down to analysis of any eventual engineering project. Transportation planning can no longer begin as a series of engineering studies, studies driven by Average Daily Trip numbers.  Pierce said, "We cannot build our way out of our transportation woes. We simply cannot afford it, nor would we want to live with the results."  Bonita Beach Road and this intersection could both be vastly expanded only to remain choked with cars headed up 2-lane Estero Blvd.  Pierce said, "we need comprehensive, inter-jurisdictional, county-wide, transportation planning, including our airport, which is very well managed, but operating at cross-purposes on transportation. "

Pierce elaborated on this point by saying that the left hand approved the expansion and enhancement of rental car facilities at this totally auto-centric airport, sending hundreds of thousands of rental cars rolling down Lee County roads.  At the same time, the right hand is struggling to fund its long term transportation capital budget.  Many airports have long since moved to complete transit service, saving and maximizing benefits to travelers and saving their citizens from enormous tax burdens. With no comprehensive, county-wide transportation planning, we all will end up losing. 

News reports from the MPO Board decision on the Bonita Springs intersection study can be found at:

News-Press,Aug. 23rd:  Bonita flyover discussion over; Lee MPO votes against study

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