The objective of the Traffic Committee is to help shape opinions and actions on issues that affect congestion on Sanibel. The current scope of the committee is vehicular congestion and shared-use paths.
Background. The best metric we have for vehicular congestion is causeway crossings. Vehicles crossing the causeway increased steadily from the opening of the facility in 1963 until 2001, when they peaked at 3,460,000. Traffic stayed at about that level until Hurricane Charley in August of 2004. In the twelve months following the hurricane vehicle crossings dropped 500,000 below the preceding year. There was some increase after that, but the annual rate remained below 3,000,000. The 2010 total reversed a three-year trend of slightly rising traffic, dropping below the 2,900,000 figure first attained in 1989. In 2011, crossings rose by 70,000 vehicles to a total of 2,950,000, the highest figure since 2004. The year 2012 saw just enough increase to put the total crossings above 3,000,000. The number of crossings in the first nine months of 2013 are up 4.27% from the same period in 2012.
Current Activity. Sanibel has been working on the development of a Master Plan for shared-use paths for some time. The City retained a consultant to assist in this effort. The consultant’s report, submitted in April, 2007, was not acceptable to Council. The City released a Final Draft report for comment on February 3, 2009. On March 12 the Committee of the Islands provided to the City some observations on implementation priorities. The City Council approved the report on April 21, 2009. Implementation of the recommendations depends on funding. There are currently two grant applications awaiting approval for improvements to the shared-use paths.
The physical survey of Dunlop Road from Periwinkle Way to Palm Ridge Road was performed on June 1, 2010. The design for the proposed multi-purpose path is expected to be completed by November 30, 2010 and construction is tentatively set for April through June, 2011. The Department of Public Works will seek the safest and most environmentally sensitive route for the proposed path.
ALTERNATIVE TRANSPORTATION STUDY
In 2007 a consortium consisting of Sanibel, LeeTran and the Wildlife Refuge received a $700,000 grant from the U. S. Department of Transportation to study issues flowing from Sanibel’s role as a gateway city for the Refuge. The study was part of a Federal Transit Administration initiative named Alternative Transportation to Parks and Public Program (ATPPL).
The scope of work for the project includes substantial public involvement. The first significant element of this was a series of interviews with “stakeholders”. The Committee of the Islands participated in this process. In preparation for the interview we presented a background paper that appears in the Overview Documents below. The background paper emphasizes the importance of data collection and public participation.
Public participation has been part of the process, but it has been somewhat frustrated by the lack of adequate data on why visitors to the island come here. There have now been three public workshops. While the original plan called for workshops to provide the opportunity to comment on specific proposals, no proposals have yet emerged. Following a workshop on April 16, the consultant indicated that there would be no “scenarios” for comment before the fall. That schedule lags the initial plan, but it does represent a recognition of the seasonality of Sanibel’s rhythm. One point that workshop participants made repeatedly is that any transportation problems we may have last only a few months each year. We do not need twelve month solutions for them. The consultants also seem to have heard the widespread opposition to large busses coursing Sanibel.
Going forward the Committee of the Islands believes that it is important that the consultant await public input before trying to evaluate transportation alternatives. It appears that the City officials share that view. The consultants had planned to schedule public input sessions in January and March of this year. These plans failed to materialize because the project did not receive funding until last month. It is not clear what the consultant will do now but the Committee of the Islands will stay in close contact with the project.