CLEARWATER — One of the most important things a Metropolitan Planning Organization does is prepare a county’s long range transportation plan, according to Whit Blanton, Forward Pinellas executive director.
Forward Pinellas Board members got the first look at the draft 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan, aka Advantage Pinellas, during its Oct. 9 meeting. The plan must be approved at the November meeting.
Blanton pointed out that this will be the first long range transportation plan done by Forward Pinellas since the merger of the MPO and Pinellas Planning Council in 2014. Forward Pinellas functions as the county’s land use and planning agency.
The plan is required to receive state and federal transportation funding and is a guide for how that funding will be spent for the next 20 years.
Forward Pinellas has spent the past two years working on the plan that includes countywide land use and redevelopment, as well as the county’s transportation policy. It was developed in partnership with Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s Community Bus Plan and the county’s Active Transportation Plan. It includes a climate hazards assessment of the regional transportation network.
Plans also considered results of public outreach efforts, which revealed that residents want better timing of traffic signals, improved transit service, improved safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, and maintenance of roads with limited roadway expansions.
Oct. 9 is not the first time staff has presented updates on Advantage Pinellas; however, it was the board’s first look at the draft Cost Feasible Plan. Staff has matched transportation projects with those identified in a needs assessment with revenue available by funding source, county or state, projected to be available through 2045.
According to the draft list of cost feasible roadway projects funding was set aside for the following.
• $1 million a year for future technology needs.
• $1 million a year for Complete Streets grants.
• $1.5 million a year for capital transit costs (bus replacements).
• $500,000 a year for regional transit capital investments, such as vanpools, waterborne transportation and regional vehicles.
• $61.26 million for Active Transportation Plan recommendations to be distributed through 2045.
In addition, $6 million was allocated to trail overpasses, which should pay for about four.
The funding does not include maintenance costs for any of the roadways.
Board members are expected to approve the final plan at a meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 1 p.m., in the fifth floor Assembly Room at the County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater.
To comment before the meeting, visit forwardpinellas.org/blog/open-for-public-comment-advantage-pinellas-plan/.
Some board members expressed concerns about when certain projects were scheduled to be funded. Pinellas Park Mayor Sandra Bradbury said some had been on the list for 30 years. She wants those to be moved closer to the top. Pinellas County commissioners Karen Seel, Ken Welch and Dave Eggers agreed. Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said some projects were safety issues and also should be moved closer to the top.
Forward Pinellas staff explained that timing for projects funded by Penny for Pinellas money was up to the county. In addition, timing for all projects had been matched with funding as it was expected to become available, which was spread out through 2045.
Board members also approved a list of priorities for the upcoming Legislative session. The list includes support for urban agriculture, protection for the state’s trust funds and transportation funding. Forward Pinellas also supports additional measures to stop distracted driving, maintaining MPO authority and home rule.
Blanton said he would reach out to the county’s Legislative Delegation about the priorities. In addition, he will monitor future filing of bills and bring them to the board’s attention if warranted.
As of Sept. 30, 70 fatality crashes have been reported in Pinellas, which is 15 less than the same period last year. The majority of fatalities were pedestrians, 25, or 36%, with 17 each, 24%, for motorcyclists and automobiles. Seven bicyclists have died in crashes, 10%, and four were listed as other, 6%.
For all of 2018, 120 fatalities were reported in 115 crashes in Pinellas, including 39 pedestrians, six bicyclists, 31 motorcyclists and 44 vehicles.
Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.