Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lee County's Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) requests commissioners for additional bike/ped retrofit funds

Kudos to BPAC for its recent letter to BoCC requesting additional funds for bike/ped retrofit projects.

Background on BPAC
BPAC is a 11-member committee, established in 1989, and  appointed by the Lee County Board of County Commissioners to evaluate and recommend bicycle and pedestrian facilities to be built in Lee County.  It evaluates citizen requests for retrofit bike/ped facilities, reviews projects for complete streets, and considers member and staff requests for projects needed to fill gaps in the county's system.  Based on these reviews, it recommends a prioritized list to the BoCC for consideration in the annual CIP budget.  (Click here for background on the committee, its charter and its members.)

BPAC Action
Over the past decade the need for retrofit projects has grown as the funds available to meet these needs has declined in real terms, resulting in a growing backlog and citizen concerns about requested projects not being funded.  This Fall, BPAC began discussing the need for additional funds. At the Nov. 19th BPAC meeting the committee discussed its proposal to send a letter to BoCC to request additional funds for bike/ped retrofit projects.  The committee agreed to make this topic the main agenda item for the Dec. 17th meeting and invited committee members and members from the public present at the meeting to submit ideas and data analysis for their consideration for that Dec. 17th discussion. Click here for BikeWalkLee's report analyzing the history and trends in LeeDOT funding of bike/ped stand-alone projects that was submitted to BPAC in December.  

 At BPAC's Jan. 18th meeting, the committee unanimously agreed to send a letter to the BoCC asking for an annual funding level of $2 million for bike/ped retrofit projects.  In the current 5-year CIP, $3.86 M is budgeted for these projects, or $772,000/year. Thus, the requested funding level is about 2.5 times more than the current funding level.

 Note that the BPAC request only deals with stand alone retrofit projects, which is the focus of BPAC's responsibilities.  Since the adoption of the 2009 Complete Streets Resolution, it has been standard practice for the County to include bike/ped facilities in road projects being constructed.  Funds for those projects are included in the overall road project costs. 

Honorable Commissioners:

As you are aware, 2014 has been a deadly year for cyclists and pedestrians in Lee County with 19 deaths within incorporated and unincorporated areas in Lee County, making us one of the highest counties in Florida for fatalities.

One of the BPAC responsibilities is to prioritize and recommend retrofit projects to the BoCC.  Currently, we have 85 projects at an estimated cost of about 65 million dollars on our waiting list.  Most of these projects were initiated by citizen's requests or by BPAC members to fill gaps in our system.  We typically receive about six new requests per year.  Currently, we have good projects that have been on our list for over 20 years that have not been scheduled for construction.

With the rate of new requests and our current backlog, it would take well over 50 years to complete the project list.  It is disconcerting to citizens who take the time to speak at committee meetings, to find out that by the time the sidewalk they are requesting for their children to walk to school is completed, their children will have already graduated from high school.  Bicycle and pedestrian retrofit facilities are funded through gas tax, impact fees and grants.

With recent changes in the LDC and adoption of Complete Streets by the BoCC in 2009, new development and roads are designed and built to include the appropriate bicycle and pedestrian facilities.  We have many years of legacy development which were originally built to the standard of the day, but do not meet current construction standards.

Our goal is to be the best bicycle-pedestrian-friendly county in Florida.  We respectfully request the BoCC to increase the budget for bicycle and pedestrian retrofits to $2,000,000 per year.  Please consider increasing existing sources and/or research alternative funding for bicycle and pedestrian facilities retrofits.

Don Mayne, Chair
Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee

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