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Refuge transportation study presented to Council

By Staff | Mar 22, 2013

Sanibel City Council viewed a presentation Tuesday on progress in the Paul Sarbanes Study into alternative transportation for the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge at City Hall.

Scott Pringle made the presentation for Jacobs of Tampa, the lead planning firm.

The presentation centered on two parts – environmental assessment (EA) and the implementation plan.

“We thank the public for all of their ideas,” said Pringle. “Public input is a very important part of a study like this.”

Public comments and ideas were heard and considered at several meetings and forums held last spring and summer on Sanibel.

Addressing the environmental assessment, Pringle outlined several points as the focus of the study. He recommended as many as 10 signs around the Refuge to orient and guide visitors around the grounds. Signs would replace some current signs, consolidate some signs or be added.

Transportation from parking lots to the education center and elsewhere would be done using a non-gasoline-burning tram or shuttle service having no adverse effect on the environment. Bicycle use in the refuge also is encouraged. Parking lots need to be formalized to prevent parking violations, especially during special events and the peak visitor season.

A trail is proposed to efficiently connect Tarpon Bay Explorers to the city’s Shared Use Path system, keeping users safe from traffic along Tarpon Bay Road.

Wildlife crossings of Sanibel Captiva Road would be addressed with technology, such as motion detectors, and by reducing the speed limit adjacent to the Refuge.

Implementation brings up the cost factor. Pringle said the estimated initial investment is between $2.3 million and $8 million. Most of that amount is due to the purchase of the trams or shuttles, which could run as much at $6.2 million.

He indicated the annual operation cost to be between $700,000 and $750,000.

Councilman Mick Dehman said he could not support increasing signage because, “there are too many signs on the island already.” He thought 10 was too many.

He also said using non-gas vehicles for transportation was a must, in his view, and reducing the speed limit on San Cap Road is the way to go to help reduce wildlife fatalities.

Mayor Kevin Ruane backed Denham on the speed limit issue and asked that the traffic engineers already studying the city’s traffic and crosswalks come forth with a proposal on the speed limit that would be taken to the Lee County Commission. San Cap Road is a county-owned road.

The transportation study now goes to U.S. Fish & Wildlife for review.

For more information on the study visit the website: www.dingdarlingtransportation.com