Monday, July 13, 2015

Estero citizens press for bike/ped facilities on Estero Parkway

Pressure is mounting in Estero for the County to fund the BPAC-recommended shared use path project for Estero Parkway.  Below are four stories in the media (2 NBC-2 News, one WINK News  and a Naples Daily News story) over the weekend about this project. Thanks to our Estero rep, Doug Saxton, for taking the lead on this project for BikeWalkLee.

At Friday's Estero Village Council workshop  and again at Monday's ECCL Transportation Committee meeting, citizens, including BikeWalkLee's Estero rep Doug Saxton, spoke about the need for a shared use path on Estero Parkway, a project that is ranked at the top of the County's BPAC recommended bike/ped funding priorities list.  While Estero Parkway is located in Estero, it is a county-managed roadway and as such, the County should pay for this project, as it does for other county-managed roads in other jurisdictions. In February, BPAC recommended that BoCC increase funding for retrofit projects to $2 M/year (more than double the current funding level), a request supported by BikeWalkLee.  If BoCC were to approve BPAC's request for $2 million/year, there would be funds available for the Estero Parkway project.

WINK News, July 13th: Push to make Estero Parkway safer

WINK News, July 13th: Push to make Estero Parkway safer

ESTERO, Fla.- There is a push to make Estero Parkway safer for runners, walkers and bicyclists.
“We are trying to create bikeable and walkable community,” said Doug Saxton with BikeWalkLee.
Saxton knows firsthand how unsafe Estero Parkway can be.

“When I go from my daily run and I have to leave the sidewalk area, I have to go on that very small shoulder. The cars are zipping by you 45 plus and it’s definitely a concern,” Saxton told WINK News.

A sidewalk along the parkway ends with no warning, putting the bicyclist and or pedestrians on a tiny piece of road along a very busy street.

“It’s unfortunate that in order to live a healthy lifestyle, you have to take some risks,” said Saxton.
Saxton is worried with a new Wal-Mart opening soon and students returning to Florida Gulf Coast University this fall, the area will become even more dangerous.

Saxton is talking with Lee County about adding bike lanes and wider sidewalks. But, it will cost more than $1 million and the questions remain, who will pay for it and when will construction start?

“Right now, Estero parkway is high on that list, but they are unfunded.”

People in Estero will find out when the sidewalk and bike project will be in the works in September. That’s when Lee County finalizes its five year Capital Improvement Plan

NBC-2 News: Concerns grow about sidewalks near new Estero Walmart

Jul 12, 2015 7:38 PM EST
By David Hodges, Collier County reporter
ESTERO, FL -While residents are looking forward to the convenience of a new Walmart on US-41 and Estero Parkway, some worry the lack of sidewalks might create a dangerous situation.

"I'm a walking fanatic," Amy Spoerl said taking a stroll down Estero Parkway.

Spoerl's walk has to end or continue on the grass or road after just a couple miles. The sidewalk ends on the south side of the road right at the railroad crossing. It's not the only place where the sidewalk cuts off on that road.

"Sometimes I would have to go out on the road. It depends on what the grass is like. Has it been mowed lately? Did it rain a whole bunch? I don't know," Spoerl said.

Spoerl says the one thing for sure is that it's not the safest place to walk.

"I'm only a couple of feet away from cars traveling in excess of 45-50 miles per hour, so it's a little unnerving," BikeWalkLee representative Doug Saxton said.

Lee County has already seen 11 pedestrians and three bikers die in crashes in 2015.

Saxton says the real problem might surface when the Walmart opens later this summer and FGCU is back in session. Estero Parkway is the road that connects the two hubs.

"There's going to be a huge increase in traffic here," Saxton said.

Saxton recently approached the Lee County Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee about the need for a mixed-use path on the parkway.

BPAC has the project high on their priority list, but it's currently unfunded.

BPAC is asking Lee County Commissioners for a bump in their budget to help tackle several projects. The advisory members sent a letter requesting $2 million in funding. Current funding is around $750,000 a year.

The debate over who pays for the project is not over yet. Estero council members are courting Lee County to pay for several road and sidewalk projects. The two parties still haven't decided who will maintain Estero Parkway in the future.

In the meantime, Saxton says he'll just keep being careful about where he's walking.

"For now everybody really has to be careful about what they're doing," Saxton said.

 Jul 10, 2015 5:48 PM EST
By Brittany Weiner, Reporter WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral

Lee County is considered one of the deadliest in Florida for bicyclists and pedestrians. There have been more than 280 crashes so far this year. Fourteen of them were fatal. 

Estero residents have tasked their newly formed council to step up a safety on the roads. 
Many sidewalks in Estero don't connect.  Once you get to a point, you either have to go through grass or onto the busy road. 

When you live in a place where it's always summer, getting around on foot or by bike is always an option.
"The older we get, the more active we get," said Estero resident Adele Amico. 

"If everybody has their own space on the road, then we're all safe," said Doug Saxton with Bike Walk Lee. 
Doug Saxton is a representative for the safety advocacy group - Bike Walk Lee.  He says that space can be hard to find in Estero. 

"Parts of my run are on the shoulder of road literally feet from the cars," said Saxton.

There is a lack of sidewalks and bike paths, and many of them don't connect. 

"The tarred area stops, and then all of the sudden, you decided should I continue or I better turn around right now," said Amico. 

Residents asked the Village of Estero council to put safety on the top of its to-do list.

"We'd like to have a shared-use path; which is a wider sidewalk that will allow for bicyclists, runners, strollers or whatever it is to come and go safely," said Saxton.

Many people think Lee County should foot the bill for these improvements. 

"I think the county should be responsible because it is a county road.  It's an issue that happened prior to us becoming a city," said Amico.

"It shouldn't be taken over by the village until the conditions that are there are eliminated," said Estero resident Bill Williams.  

Councilors plan to put pedestrian and bike safety on the agenda for their September 3rd regular meeting.

Naples Daily News, July 10, 2015: Push on for sidewalks along Estero Parkway
By Maryann Batlle
Photo submitted to NDN by Bill Williams
A road that leads to Estero’s soon-to-be-open Walmart needs sidewalks, the village council said Friday, but Lee County should probably pay for them.

Mayor Nick Batos said residents should support the council’s negotiations with the county instead of breaking off into lobbying factions.

“Everybody has the opportunity and the right to have discussion and bring up their idea,” Batos said. “If we don’t consolidate our efforts in one path, then we (can) confuse the issue.”

Two residents who spoke during a Friday council workshop asked the village to endorse community-led efforts to twist the county’s arm on the Estero Parkway issue. They brought up their concerns as the village council debated how best to prioritize capital improvement projects such as median beautification, road paving and, yes, sidewalks.

Bill Williams, who said he is a retired city manager, gave the village councilors packets of research with aerial photos taken from someone’s private photography drone. Williams is the head of an Estero volunteer citizens’ transportation committee that met Tuesday for the first time.

The looming grand opening of Walmart on Estero Parkway’s U.S. 41 corner is bringing the problem to a head, Williams said.

“We believe Lee County should step up,” Williams said. “Estero Parkway today is rapidly becoming a busy arterial. We need sidewalks.”

The drone aerial images show that weathered strips of concrete line the south side of Estero Parkway, in front of the Cascades gated community. The sidewalk ends long before Three Oaks Parkway to the east.

The north side of Estero Parkway also has sidewalk gaps. There is no sidewalk from the Osprey Cove community to the Walmart Supercenter under construction on U.S. 41.

Lee County estimates that building sidewalks on Estero Parkway would cost about $1.3 million, said Batos.
County officials have told Estero that the sidewalk project is a No. 1 priority, but Lee lacks funding to start construction, said Batos.

After the sidewalk discussion and a short break, Estero’s village council crunched numbers during its first budget workshop.

Revised budget figures show Estero is expected to bring in $10.9 million in revenue, interim Village Manager Peter Lombardi said.

He recommends that Estero keeps its property tax rate at .84 cents per every $1,000 of taxable value. Though the rate would stay flat, the proposal is tantamount to a tax increase because village property values are on the rise.

The council can cut expenses by lowering village employees’ salaries and benefits, said Estero resident Adele Amico.

“I think we need to start coming in line with reality,” Amico said.

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