Sunday, January 31, 2016

FGCU Infrastructure Study of Estero lays foundation for creation of walkable/bikeable community

An important first step was taken by the Village of Estero towards the goal of making it a walkable/bikeable community, with the recently completed FGCU Infrastructure Inventory. Kudos to the FGCU team of professors and students, and thanks to BWL's Estero representative for reporting on the progress in Estero. As Doug says, more Estero residents need to speak up in support of a walkable and bikeable future: "We need you to get involved and lend your voice, your energy, your passion, and your connections." To get involved in the next steps, there will be public workshops in the Spring about the recommendations in this report. We'll let you know as soon as those workshops are scheduled. 

The Village of Estero is barely a year old and there are some exciting things happening, especially if you are a bicyclist or a pedestrian. You may have heard last October, the Village Council signed an agreement with FGCU to perform an assessment of the condition of our roads, bike lanes, sidewalks and median landscaping by the end of January 2016. FGCU presented their findings to the Village Council at a Workshop on January 20th and proceeded to knock it out of the park. 

Link to Report
The FGCU team was led by faculty member Dr. Margaret Banyan (who focuses on smart growth, public transportation, and community issues in Southwest Florida) and Dr. Claude Villiers (who has an extensive background in civil engineering, materials and construction). They were joined by a team of seven civil engineering, public administration, and political science students. The Team logged many miles around Estero working on this project.
FGCU Team Leaders: Dr. Villiers and Dr. Banyan
At the January 20th presentation, Dr. V (as he is called), went into a detail analysis on how each of the road’s conditions were analyzed. He went on to state that the roads in Estero are in pretty good condition with only 12% requiring immediate attention. One of those roads is Estero Parkway. The report stated that there was “severe raveling throughout the entire road.” It also noted that, the “pavement appears to be very thin and is not flush with curbing (~1 inch)…and that immediate attention is recommended.” The Team provided pictures and took videos to demonstrate the conditions.
Estero Parkway has severe raveling
Next up was the review of our bike lanes and sidewalks or lack thereof. Dr. Banyan led that discussion. Again, no surprise that Estero Parkway is lacking in biking and walking facilities. The recommendation is “new 10’ Shared Use Path – Asphalt and Buffered and Marked Bike Lanes” on both sides would improve connectivity, usage, safety and access. Another area of concern in Estero is River Ranch Road which requires new sidewalks to repair gaps to protect those that walk to and from the high school. These findings are certainly no surprise to anyone that drives, bikes or walks in Estero.

The final report included a “heat map” using data provided by Walk Score. This data highlighted the areas that have the closest proximity of amenities in the Village. These maps are a good tool to measure the Estero baseline of walkability and to help to prioritize infrastructure improvements. 

Sidewalk "heat map" shows highest Walk Score at Coconut Pointe
 Estero has a lot of work to do. Thankfully, the Village Council had the vision to reach out to FGCU to perform this assessment. Based on discussion at the meeting between the Council, Dr. Banyan, and Dr. Villiers, it sounds as if the Village Council is very pleased with the results.

As stated in the News-Press article Three Worst Estero Roads" Identified published on January 23rd, Councilman Jim Boesch called the involvement of the university terrific,” and expressed hope that FCGU will remain involved with the Village in the future. The article went on to say "It provides a baseline assessment of our infrastructure of roads and sidewalks and landscaping throughout the entire village,” said Village Manager Steven Sarkozy. The Village and Lee County are due to negotiate an agreement to settle what roads will remain with county government and which will become property of Estero. It does add to the understanding of what the conditions are, it will influence whether we take property back that is not well-maintained,” Sarkozy said. For Sarkozy, the question is one for Estero’s elected officials. The village council will ultimately decide,” Sarkozy said. To read the entire article, click here.
Bike "heat map" shows need for additional biking facilities
The next steps
The Village Council has estimated that they will have a surplus of approximately $5M at the end September (FY 15/16). In addition to putting some money in Reserves, the Council has always had a vision to develop a 5 year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to put some money back into Estero on things that the community is interested in. Now that we know what needs to be corrected and in what timeframe, it will be up to the Village of Estero Council and the County BoCC to work together and agree on a solution. 

Also, I am hopeful that money will be put in next year’s budget to hire a consultant to help create the Village’s first Bike/Ped Master Plan. Our neighbors Bonita Springs and Cape Coral are each presently working on their Bike/Ped Master Plans with the help of consultants.  

How you can help? To make Estero a safer and more inviting village, we need many more Estero residents to speak up for a walkable and bikeable future. The Village Center is in the process of being planned. We need you to get involved and lend your voice, your energy, your passion, and your connections. The residents of Estero will have an opportunity to have their voices heard at public workshops later this Spring to help determine what is in the 5 year CIP. Stay tuned for dates and times. Until that time, I hope you will all join me and let the Village Council know that keeping bicyclists and pedestrians safe is a priority.

Just as everyone enjoys the vision that our leaders had and continue to support regarding the “look and feel” of Estero, I too, have a vision that the Village of Estero will be leaders in Lee County for safe multi-modal transportation. I am hopeful that one day the Village of Estero will be named a Bicycle Friendly Community, just like Sanibel and Cape Coral. Too often in Estero, we are all competing for the same space on our roads. Bicyclists and pedestrians are on the road with motor vehicles due to a lack of bike lanes and shared use paths. When you walk out the door, you should be able to make a choice as to your mode of transportation. Am I going to drive, bike or walk to my destination? When each of these modes of transportation has its own space, we are all safer. This is our chance to shape the future of the Village of Estero. I am excited, are you?
Doug Saxton
Many thanks to Dr. Banyan, Dr. V and the FGCU team for an eye-opening report. It’s time for visions to become reality.

Report by Doug Saxton, Estero Resident and BikeWalkLee Estero Representative

Village of Estero post 2/1/16:  FGCU submits final report of infrastructure inventory

FGCU Study: Estero Infrastructure Inventory (prepared for Village of Estero), Jan. 29, 2016

FGCU PowerPoint presentation on Inventory study to Estero Village Council, Jan. 20, 2016

NBC-2 News 1/28/16: Potholes, cracks in Estero roads need 'immediate attention'

News-Press 1/23/16: Three worst Estero roads identified

BikeWalkLee  related blog posts:
Jan. 6, 2016:Invite to Jan. 12th Estero Village Center workshop

July 13, 2015: Estero citizens press for bike/ped facilities on Estero Parkway 
February 7, 2012: Estero: Roadside revisions begin

March 8, 2011:Commissioners back Downtown Estero--mixed use project

February 16, 2012:NBC-2 News: STEM students contribute to street safety [Estero H.S.]

March 20, 2014: ULI Forum, All Eyes on Estero, at FGCU last week points to ways to make Estero walkable/healthy community

December 21, 2010:Estero planning groups' priorities include safer bike paths

November 17, 2010: Estero river district plan includes complete streets features 

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