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Council discusses Dunlop Road path alternatives

By Staff | Dec 8, 2010

During a special meeting called by the City Council last Thursday to discuss alternatives for the alignment of the proposed shared use path along Dunlop Road, a formal review of all four proposals was presented.

Gates Castle, Public Works Director for the City of Sanibel, told the council and approximately 25 members of the public gathered at MacKenzie Hall that the project — initially discussed in May 1994 — called for a shared path loop connecting Dunlop Road, Wooster Lane and Periwinkle Way.

Using a map and a PowerPoint presentation, Castle explained the details of the four proposed path alternatives:

Option 1 — Constructing the shared use path five feet south of the existing eastbound travel lane. While probably the least expensive option, it is also the one with the greatest environmental impact involving gopher tortoise habitat, native vegetation and wetlands.

Option 2 — Identical to Option 1, except the eastbound travel lane at the Wooster Lane curve would become the shared use path. As a result, there would be no wetlands impact, but gopher tortoise and native vegetation would remain impacted.

Option 3 — Utilizing the existing eastbound lane from Mahogany Way to the main City Hall entrance for the shared use path, a new eastbound lane would be constructed south of, and adjacent to, the existing westbound lane. A portion of the existing westbound lane could be used for the interconnecting path previously mentioned and the ingress/egress for the BIG Arts/Village & Museum parking lot would be modified. This option would be more expensive than options 1 or 2, but would have no gopher tortoise or wetlands impact. Native roadway trees would need to be relocated with this option.

Option 4 — Utilizing the existing eastbound lane from Mahogany Way to the main City Hall entrance for the shared use path, but rather than utilizing the existing westbound lane for vehicular travel, a new two-lane road would be constructed in the median. A portion of the existing westbound lane could be used for the interconnecting path previously mentioned and the BIG Arts/Village & Museum parking lot would be reconfigured with a new ingress/egress location and possible enlargement utilizing space gained through the elimination of the existing westbound lane. This option would be the most expensive and require the relocation of more native street trees than the other options.

“Early on, we decided that the safest route to place the path would be along the south side of the road,” said Castle, who also explained that the 2009 Shared Use Path Master Plan includes this project as one of seven recommended path system extensions.

The consensus among city employees familiar with the project was to recommend Option #3.

“I do believe that option would provide more green space into the future,” said Dr. Ron Loflin, Director of the city’s Natural Resources Department.

“My primary concern in realigning the roadway and shared use path is safety,” added Sanibel Chief of Police Bill Tomlinson. “Having this interconnectivity with access to these facilities is also very important.”

Jimmy Jordan, Planning Department Director, agreed with both assessments.

“It think it’s a more user-friendly design, which might also encourage more people attended events there to use their bicycles,” he said. “From an environmental and a safety standpoint, I think this design conforms better with our mission statement.”

Councilman Marty Harrity asked Castle which alternative he preferred most, with Castle noted the advantages of both options #3 and #4. Vice Mayor Mick Denham asked what the cost differential might be between those two options. Castle estimated that Option #4 might be “approximately 25 percent higher.”

City Manager Judie Zimomra pointed out that the Fiscal Year 2010-11 budget includes $400,000 to construct the path as well as other shared use components along the north side of Periwinkle Way (from the SCA crosswalk to the St. Michael’s crosswalk); paths interconnecting the library, City Hall, BIG Arts and the Sanibel Historic Village & Museum; installation of signage and dark sky compliant lighting for the proposed Dunlop Road pathway; and investigating methods of improving the SCA crosswalk.

Jim Jennings also asked Castle what feedback had been received from the affected sites along the proposed pathway.

“We’re just asking for council direction on the alignment,” he said. “We still have a lot of work to do on getting these plans prepared in order to meet the summer 2011 deadline to begin construction.”

Councilman Peter Pappas asked Dr. Loflin what he throught the “greenest” option was available, and what benefits Option #4 might have over Option #3. Dr. Loflin responded that with Option #4, there would be a greater loss of a natural buffer currently located in the Dunlop Road median areas.

Tomlinson also told Pappas that the present traffic alignment of the roadway is “not an imminent safety threat.”

During public comment, resident Karen Storjohann told the council she favored Option #3 as well.

“It’s aesthetically pleasing,” she said. “I think it solves most of the problems that exist there.”

Judy Bonn, speaking on behalf of the BIG Arts Board of Directors, stated that some of the options under consideration by the city “may be problematic” to the future of the organization, which she added has virtually outgrown their facility space. She requested a delay in making any decisions on the subject until after BIG Arts and the city staff could meet to discuss details of the plan.

“I haven’t heard anybody from our organization say that they’re against bike paths,” added BIG Arts board member Ralph Clark.

Resident Larry Schopp told the council that he “enthusiastically supports Option #3.

“I gather that if we delay this much more, it will be another year before we get this started,” he said.

Harrity, however, proposed tabling the matter until more information could be gathered and shared among the affected island groups and organizations.

“Maybe it takes us two or three more weeks,” said Harrity. “I’d rather do it right the first time.”

Councilors unanimously agreed to delay any action on the subject until their Jan. 4, 2011 meeting, where they will be presented an updated staff report and possible recommendations.