FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce Calls for Reinstatement of U.S. 41 and Bonita Beach Road Study, Official Position Paper Released
Contact: Chelsea Birczak, Director of Marketing & Communications
Bonita Springs, FL (August 18, 2014) On Monday, August 18th the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce sent a ‘Call to Action’ email to their 861 business members urging them to attend the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s August 22nd meeting to speak in favor of moving forward with the Project Development & Environmental (PD&E) Study of the U.S. 41 and Bonita Beach Road intersection.
The message was sent from the Chamber’s President & CEO, Christine Ross who stated, “As an advocate for planning and data collection to help us manage the future infrastructure needs of our community, the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce would like to ask for your help... The Chamber does not want a flyover. Since 2003, the Bonita Springs City Council worked tirelessly to get this intersection on the MPO’s schedule for future capacity planning. Any changes to this intersection, regardless of the study’s outcome, will not take place for fifteen or twenty years. This is a future management and safety plan for the good of our region that should be addressed now. ”
The email noted that if community members were not able to attend the MPO meeting, they could email the MPO’s voting representatives who are all listed at www.BonitaSpringsChamber.com, on the Chamber’s’ Press Room’ under ‘News & Events.’ Also at this link, the Chamber has provided a pre-written message stating, “On behalf of the Bonita Springs community, I encourage you to vote in favor of continuing the study of the Bonita Beach Road and U.S. 41 intersection. Though we would not be in favor of a flyover, it is vital that we understand what kind of infrastructure we will need to withstand the amount of growth projected for this area in the decades to come. Thank you for your time and consideration on this important issue.”
This same day, the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce posted their official position paper on the PD&E Study which reads as follows:
DOT currently has a $1 million federally funded agreement with a transportation engineering/planning company, to conduct a Project Development & Environmental (PD&E) study of the Bonita Beach Road U.S. 41 intersection for future growth. One day after the Bonita Springs City Council voted 5-2 to reject the PD&E study that would have included an overpass option at U.S. 41 and Bonita Beach Road, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) put the study on hold. FDOT’s District 1 Secretary, Billy Hattaway said, “the study must wait until the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) votes at its August 22, 2014 meeting whether to continue the study.” The MPO has the final say on whether to continue with the study or not.
While the intersection of a Lee County road (Bonita Beach Road) with a state road (U.S. 41), is located in Bonita Springs, it also serves regional travel for citizens and visitors to Lee and Collier Counties, hence the MPO’s involvement. While the Chamber is not in support of a flyover, we are in support of conducting a study to facilitate proper planning and future enhancements for our roadways. The PD&E study, will aid in future management and a safety plan for the good of our entire region, of the U.S. 41/Bonita Beach Road intersection.
FDOT follows federal requirements for PD&E studies in order to qualify for federal funding of all project phases, through and including construction. As a condition of those requirements, FDOT cannot eliminate potential alternatives prior to completion of the study. The language below comes directly out of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1502 – Environmental Impact Statement.
“(f) Agencies shall not commit resources prejudicing selection of alternatives before making a final decision.”
In essence, FDOT is not permitted to exclude options prior to completion of a study. It is unfortunate that there is a perception that the flyover is “mandatory,” when in fact it is not mandatory, it just cannot be excluded at this early stage. If we don’t complete the study it will cost tax payers potentially millions of dollars in the long run on top of forfeiting the current $1M grant.
The MPO had this study identified first in their Long Range Transportation Plan and more recently established the study of this intersection as priority for funding in 2011, which is why FDOT programmed the current study. Historically, the City of Bonita Springs and the Lee County MPO have been working in tandem since 2003 to prioritize this study at the request of prior City Councils.
The plan will help the City understand the type of infrastructure needed to withstand the amount of growth projected for the area and plan accordingly. According to current FDOT data, 40,000 vehicles travel through the intersection per day.
Initial data has already been collected. By seizing this opportunity to take advantage of $1 million federally funded study, we will be equipped with the vital data needed to create a successful plan for our region’s anticipated growth.
If community members are interested in attending the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization Meeting on August 22nd at 9:00 a.m., it is located at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd. Cape Coral, FL, 33990.
For more information on the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce’s position, please contact their President & CEO, Christine Ross at (239) 992-2943, Christine@BonitaSpringsChamber.com.
ABOUT THE BONITA SPRINGS AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Five-Star nationally accredited Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce strives to serve members, promote a region where business can grow and prosper and enhance the quality of life of the Bonita Springs area. With the support of annual partners including the Bonita Daily News/The Banner, Lee Memorial Health System, NCH Healthcare System, Physicians Regional Healthcare System, and The News-Press Media Group, the Chamber is able to focus on their mission of community development. The Chamber operates a fully-staffed 5,000 square foot Visitor’s and Business Center at 25071 Chamber of Commerce Drive in Bonita Springs, Florida Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information, please call (239) 992-2943 or visit www.BonitaSpringsChamber.com.