Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Save the date: April 26 project advisory meeting and public workshop, Fort Myers Beach Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan

Fort Myers Beach bike-ped master plan reaching final stages

The News-Press, 4/18/2017
Craig Handel

Fort Myers Beach is two months away from having
a master plan completed for cyclists and pedestrians.

(Photo: Kevin Derrick, Getty Images/iStockphoto)
For decades, Fort Myers Beach officials have wanted to improve their roads and crosswalks for cyclists and walkers.

Some quality work has been done on the beach but it hasn’t been extensive.

In about two months, Fort Myers Beach will have a master plan for bike-ped use. In June, an eight-month analysis of the area will be completed.

In addition, Estero Boulevard is undergoing a county-funded bike, pedestrian and transit enhancement. At a cost of more than $50 million, this project could run from 3-5 years.

In the past three years (2014-16) on Fort Myers Beach there have been 67 bike/ped related crashes, but no fatalities, according to Brian Raimondo, Lee MPO using Signal Four Analytics.

Construction employees work along Estero Boulevard in Fort Myers Beach near School Street.
(Photo: The News-Press file photo)
 On April 26, residents and Fort Myers beach goers have another chance to speak about what kind of improvements they’d like to see.

The Town of Fort Myers Beach, in partnership with the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization will hold an interactive, community workshop from 5:30-7 p.m.at Town Hall in the Council Chambers. There also is aproject advisory meeting from 10-11:30 a.m. that the public is invited to that day.

The workshop will include a presentation, interactive exercises to collect ideas for plan recommendations and time to talk with town staff and project team members about ideas to improve walking and biking on Fort Myers Beach.

The master plan is being done by Jacobs, which specializes in architecture, engineering and construction operations and maintenance, as well as specialty consulting. Ron Gogoi, a transportation planning administer with MPO, said the focus is on the East-West roadways and the location of the crosswalks.

Town officials will be asking attendees such questions as:

What does it mean to you to walk and bike in Fort Myers Beach?

How can we improve bicycling and walking in Fort Myers Beach?

What would encourage you to walk and bike more?

How can we better connect you to your destinations?

Past meetings have had little attendance. Bruce Butcher, a former BikeWalkLee steering committee member now on the town council, hopes that changes now that there’s less traffic.

“It’s a quality life issue, the way I look at it,” he said. “The master plan is a supplement to Estero Boulevard to make the experience better for bikers.”

Better means safer and better means a potential boost in tourism. Studies have shown families take trips to areas based on which are considered the most bike and pedestrian friendly.

In addition, there are plans to include a 300-mile bike path from Clearwater to Naples, which Fort Myers Beach would be part of.

“From a master plan side, the impetus is on safety but there also have been some requests about infrastructure improvement, like sidewalks and roadways” said Don Scott, executive director of the MPO. “It’s a prioritization process and there are different funding sources. Safety funds can be obtained quicker.”

Rendering of changes to be made on Estero Boulevard. (Photo: ReFreshFMBeach.com)

The Estero Boulevard improvement is being done in five different segments, Scott said. One segment already underway will be from 8-9 1/2 feet wide in those sections of the boulevard where constrained rights-of-way won't allow bike lanes or would permit only sharrows. The latter are those shared road markings, often with a picture of a bike, reminding motorists that cyclists have a right to use regular road lanes.

The Lee County five-year Capital Improvement Program in the fiscal year ending in 2015 allocated $50 million to DOT for Estero Boulevard improvements. The plan was to do the project in phases with a segment done every other year in order to make the funding work based on  projected revenues.

In order to proceed more efficiently and minimize long-term disruption, the Department of Transportation was  directed to continue the project as a single phase, shortening the timeframe by at least six years. By accelerating the project, the entire project cost is now contained in DOT's five-year Capital Improvement Program with the fiscal year end of 2021 at $59 million. An additional $22 million in utility work brings the total to $81 million.

“The redo of Estero Boulevard has been considered for a long time,” Scott said. “The county got serious the last few years and approved the money.”

Scott said improvements also need to be made in street lighting.

There also have been some serious injuries.

Naples bicyclist Milton Quinonez suffered a brain injury during a crash on Fort Myers Beach on July 12, 2014. They were heading off Fort Myers Beach on San Carlos Boulevard near Buttonwood Drive in the outside travel lane.

That’s why Scott and Gogoi say improvements must be made to the corridors as well as the beach itself.

“Our intention is to put together a bike-ped network,” Gogoi said. “We want to enhance bike-ped mobility as well as enhance the safety for bicyclists.”

What: The Town of Fort Myers Beach, in partnership with the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), is developing the town’s first Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.

When: Project advisory meeting, 10-11:30 a.m.; Public workshop, 5:30-7 p.m. The public is welcome to both sessions

Where: Town Hall, 2525 Estero Blvd.

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