Feasibility Study Approved!
On March 17th a big milestone was met. The Lee County MPO Board unanimously approved the feasibility study, bringing us one step closer to making this Rail to Trail a reality. Friends of BERT packed the MPO meeting with at least 35 Friends sporting BERT shirts, 13 of whom gave 3-minute presentations during the public comment period. I was personally approached by attendees who complimented the professionalism of everyone speaking on behalf of trail. Your BERT Board (Steve Gunther, Emily Porter, Deb Orton) appreciates the courage you showed to go to that podium and tell your story.
A big thank you goes out to all Friends of BERT for demonstrating your support for the Bonita Estero Rail Trail. We were able to report on our membership (now at 2600); HOA Board endorsements (now at 18) and influential organizations, like Lee Health; Blue Zones and Bonita-Estero Realtors, who endorse Bonita Estero Rail Trail project.
The Feasibility Study ran a gauntlet through two municipalities, multiple committees, and finally the MPO board. In all cases it was unanimously approved, paving the way for the next phase: PD&E/Design (Project Development, Environment and Design phase). The Feasibility Study and the PDE/Design phases are a requirement and are funded by the Florida DOT SUN Trails program. The PDE/Design phase can begin once an agreement is reached with Seminole Gulf Railway that allows the engineers on the rail corridor. Stay tuned, as we will let you know when that happens!
The Bonita Estero Rail Trail is a priority project within the Florida SUN Trails Network. “SUN (Shared-Use Nonmotorized) Trail Program is a state-wide system of high-priority (strategic) paved trail corridors for bicyclists and pedestrians.”
The SUN Trail program is administered by the Florida DOT and has strict requirements that must be met to receive funding. The Feasibility Study and the next phase, PDE/Design, are required and funded by the state SUN Trails program. Once through the required study and design phases, BERT construction will be funded by SUN Trails program, and join the growing SUN Trail network.
The 18-member MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) Board is made up of the Lee County commissioners and representation from elected officials in Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach, Estero and Bonita Springs. This board reviews FDOT projects as part of State of Florida and Federal requirements.