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CRTPA retreat includes conversations on StarMetro, Thomasville Road multi-use path, and West Pensacola St

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 10:33 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 20, 2021 at 12:35 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - An almost three-hour Capital Region Transportation Planning Agency retreat Tuesday morning included discussions on StarMetro, the Thomasville Road multi-use path and safety on West Pensacola Street.

Thomasville Road Multi-Use Path faces opposition

CRTPA Board members heard an update on the multi-use bicycle/pedestrian trail, proposed to run along Thomasville Road.

Some community members have raised concerns about the safety of placing the trail along the busy four-lane road.

During Tuesday’s retreat, CRTPA members heard about similar projects across the state and around the country. During the presentation, consultants said Thomasville Road has less than one bicycle or pedestrian crash per mile, per year.

CRTPA staff also pointed out that “near misses,” such as an incident when a person is almost hit by a vehicle, are often anecdotally discussed, but not recorded in crash data and statistics.

The proposed path is still in the planning stages; it would run along Thomasville Road from Midtown up to the Market District.

CRTPA staff says the project is designed to help with the major gap in the community’s bicycle and pedestrian connectivity, but one commissioner, in particular, has voiced his opposition to the proposed path.

City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow says he cannot support the project in its current proposal; he says he’s concerned about making Thomasville Road more dangerous.

“I don’t want to create a path, have more people go on it, and then start seeing people die in the first five years, without really holistically planning Thomasville Road,” Matlow said.

Commissioner Matlow says he doesn’t believe these kinds of pedestrian facilities should be placed along a 45 mile per hour highway, and he’s hoping for a different north-south pathway for the trail.

The last scheduled public meeting will be on Nov. 4. Staff told Commissioners they hope to publish their recommendations in early December, ahead of a January vote on the project. They emphasized that they will continue to meet with the public to hear their thoughts on the proposal.

StarMetro considers extending into Leon County to serve Amazon facilities

StarMetro is working on its Comprehensive Operational Analysis, which includes evaluations of services, routes, and schedules.

The COA is a shorter-term tactical plan for immediate implementation; StarMetro is monitoring commuting and ridership patterns. The City just completed a round of public engagement at the end of September, which included surveys and meetings with riders and stakeholders.

The City bus service plans to eliminate unproductive routes based on surveys and ridership numbers.

StarMetro is evaluating each existing route and creating an online dashboard to review the metrics; that information is scheduled to be public in early November.

Preliminary data shows on-time performances can be improved; the analysis will be complete in March.

Other service changes could adjust route frequency or service spans, and implement coordination of services for ease of transfers.

In addition to the COA, StarMetro works on a Transit Development Plan.

The Transit Development Plan is a 10-year needs-based plan looking at the entire community; StarMetro is required to submit that plan for state block grant funding.

The City performs a major update every five years and a minor update annually. FDOT has approved the current TDP.

During Tuesday’s retreat, City Commissioner Curtis Richardson and Leon County Commissioners Rick Minor and Kristin Dozier brought up the possibility of extending bus service out into the County, specifically to serve new Amazon facilities coming to Capital Circle Northwest and Mahan Drive.

“And we now will have two facilities, it seems like it is in the interest of all of us -- but I will say, this is my one opportunity, so I’m speaking to the City and Starmetro -- that extending bus service to the facility would be in StarMetro’s interest,” Commissioner Dozier said.

StarMetro’s representative at the meeting told Commissioners they are actively working with Amazon and are looking at possibilities such as a flex route.

Commissioner Curtis Richardson also spoke about the need for shelters and benches at individual bus stops around the community; StarMetro said they have multiple pieces of equipment ordered already.

West Pensacola Street audit shows safety issues for pedestrians and bicyclists

Major safety improvements are also coming to West Pensacola Street.

In response to a request from the Kearney Center in 2019 after multiple pedestrians were hit by vehicles along the road, FDOT performed an audit of the street running 1.8 miles, from Appleyard Drive to Stadium Drive.

FDOT’s District 3 Traffic Safety Engineer, Michael Lewis, gave a presentation to the CRTPA.

Data covering almost six years, from January 2014 to December 2019, showed more than 1,500 crashes along that stretch of road. 57 crashes involved a pedestrian or cyclist.

The recommendations from FDOT are primarily to make the area safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.

One issue is visibility at night; FDOT will be expediting upgrades for lighting on the entire corridor, using new LED lights.

The Department will also be reconfiguring certain sidewalks.

“We noticed in a number of locations, because of where power poles were placed or other things, that it’s right in the middle of the sidewalk and you don’t have the 4 feet minimum that you need to have in urban areas. So we’re going to make sure that those locations, we make the adjustments,” Lewis said.

Lewis says some recommendations will be handled through FDOT’s maintenance department, such as fixing the timing on certain pedestrian crossings and creating more visible crosswalks.

Other improvements will be planned as projects and advanced for construction in the future.

In addition to visibility and crosswalk timing issues, FDOT will repair damage to sidewalks and add handrails and boarding pads for bus stops in some areas along the road.

FDOT plans to re-stripe the crosswalks at Dupree, Ausley, Ocala, Lipona, Chapel, and Appleyard.

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