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Rotary Happenings: Some history and more on transportation issues in Florida

By Staff | Aug 31, 2016

Please take note this is a correction from last week’s column, Sanibel-Captiva Rotary will resume holding their 7 a.m., Friday morning meetings at the Dunes Golf & Tennis Club, Sanibel starting the week of Aug. 26. The club wants to give a big shout-out and thank-you to the Mathew-Baileys National Shell Museum for hosting our Rotary Club for the summer, while the Dunes was undergoing some property construction.

It’s amazing this summer but club attendance has been pretty strong and our Friday meeting speaker series continues to entice members to get up early for brain stimulation.

The club welcomed Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), District 1 Secretary, Billy Hattaway P.E. to the podium last Friday morning. Hattaway is quite an impressive public servant and in fact received the 2014 Government Official of the Year here in Florida.

He has spent over two decades of his life working for the state and although he left public service twice during his career in transportation planning, he was drawn back twice to the FDOT trying to work on transportation issues. In 2011 the state received a Federal Grant from Smart Growth America (SCA)-making neighborhoods great together and funded some of the state’s cost for bringing together a panel of development and planning transportation professionals along with representatives of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A 2011 report issued by Transportation for America, a program of SGA, found that Florida’s streets were among the most dangerous in the nation for pedestrians. In response, FDOT launched a broad effort to proactively address the safety needs of all users of the transportation system. Out of this week-long meeting came the need to put together two important initiatives for the State-Florida’s Complete Streets Initiative and the Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety Initiative. Hattaway came back to the FDOT in 2011 as District 1, District Secretary directly involved in the management of both of these initiatives. State web-site, “Under Hattaway’s leadership, FDOT and a coalition of partners from around the state are using a multidisciplinary approach to improve walking and bicycling safety that includes changing how streets are designed and built in Florida, updating policy and process, providing public education and outreach, and partnering with law enforcement. As a component of this broad effort, in September of 2014, the Department adopted a Complete Streets Policy to ensure that Florida’s transportation network supports safe and convenient travel for all transportation system users. The policy states that: “the Department will routinely plan, design, construct, reconstruct and operate a context sensitive system of ‘Complete Streets.”

Billy brought into focus some of the history of our Florida highway and roadway designs. Before WWII most cities and towns were designed around the availability of rail service; cities and towns had mixed uses and were traditionally walkable. With the popularity and use of trucks and automobiles our transportation landscape changed dramatically. Urban sprawl began, housing and industrial development went out to the suburbs. People had to drive everywhere to get basic needs. Highways and major roads were the connecting elements.

Although some of these developments stood side-by-side they were not interconnected, traffic had to go out of individual land developments, out to the roadways before entering another development. Highways and major roadways saw more traffic and strain on transportation arteries.

Florida’s Complete Streets Initiative and the Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety Initiative are focused on how to design and fix problem areas with future development protocols, roadways, pedestrian walkways and bicycle usage designs in bringing about a new type of development and transportation scheme. Both initiatives are looking at how to manage connecting developments together with road passage access between developments to alleviate traffic on major roads encouraging centralized self-contained larger developments with live, work, and play components. Roadway corrective designs are also on the drawing board. Encouraging small intersection business development with the return of on-street parking, which notably slows down through traffic.

Redesigning infrequently used four-lane roads, returning tree-lined center lanes, and providing pedestrian and bike safe pathways connecting both sides of the roads for small business development in these areas. There is a culture -change on the horizon demanding walkable cities, towns, and development.

Roadway usage and signage has been changing and many of us are unaware of those changes. Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety Initiative is developing a campaign to get that information out to the public, especially regarding bikers riding on the roadways.

Florida is now involved in revamping roadways and building roundabouts in some high traffic areas; one being suggested for Sanibel. That in itself is a topic that has many facets, including feasibility and safety. To be continued, at a later date.