Richard Oujevolk, Development Manager of the Florida Dept. of Transportation addressed the meeting of about 75 attendees, “We are not here to change or impact Matlacha. We are very early in the study of the project to determine what we are going to do.”
Oujevolk continued, “Through public outreach and coordination with Lee County. The City of Cape Coral, Lee Count MPO – Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Project Advisory Group and FDOT has determined that in addition to the pathway feasibility, the scope of this project should be broadened. After analyzing over 900 questionnaire responses, FDOT concluded that the improvements should be approached more holistically and evaluate potential “Complete Streets” concepts, especially through Matlacha.
Our main goal is to get a pathway from Veterans Parkway to Stringfellow Road. This potential future path would add approximately 5 miles of bike, pedestrians use from Stringfellow Road, through Matlacha, to Veterans Memorial Parkway in Cape Coral. One of our goals is to put as many people in the same area in a safe and controlled manner. We do not want to change the ambiance or use of Matlacha. We want to offer a difference form of transportation and draw attention to the area.”
Goals of the Matlacha Bike Path Committee
What we’ve heard from our Project Advisory Group and Public Questionnaire is:
1. Safety (All Travel Modes)
2. Keep Existing Right-of-way
3. Maintain Parking
4. Minimal Environmental Impacts
5. Preserve Community Character.
Steven Andrews, FDOT Project Manager talked about the size and impact of the existing parking areas in Matlacha. . . and said, “We are doing studies on providing different forms of safe transportation. We want to add different amenities to make it safer and easier to get through Matlacha” The purposed walking/bike path would take about 10 foot from the existing right-a-way which is the parking and walking area, We may have to route some of the bike path through different side streets to get through Matlacha and on to little Pine Island and Stringfellow Road.”
Oujevolk said, “Keep in mind the State of Florida gave ownership of Pine Island Road (SR 78) to Lee County.
. . .as part of the study process for the Bike path in Matlacha we checked with Lee County, City of Cape Coral and the MPO. We also asked businesses and residents of Matlacha for their input on design and safety. Some joined our advisor board and help steer us in the right direction for our study. This was to help with design, funding and right-a -way.
The State of Florida is one of the worse states for fatalities involving vehicles, bikes and pedestrians, we are trying to help make our streets safer. Matlacha is very tight and we are going to have to impact some of the property (right-a-way) to make this work.” (end quote)
From the audience came the question, “So this means you are going to take our property by eminent domain?”
Oujevolk replied, “No we do not what to have to take the right-a-way by eminent domain. We want to work with the residents and businesses of Matlacha. All we need to do the bike/walk path is the use 60 foot building front to building front.”
Mark H. from the Burnt Store area stated, “If you stand in the middle of Matlacha and look down both sides of the street, cars are hanging out into Pine Island Road. On the other end of Matlacha by Burt’s Bar, pickup trucks with hitches out in the street. You literally have to go into the other lane to get around. My question is where are you going to put a walk/bike path?”
Oujevolk’s answered, “We want to talk with folks to see if this will work, we also have to work with utilities and drainage. We are going to have to share some of the space.
Patty H., a resident of St. James City for 44 years asked, “I would like to know exactly how you are going to do this. All of these art galleries and restaurants don’t have adequate parking now. A local quilting group that is held on County Property has no where to park because visitors going to the galleries and restaurants take all the local parking. Also it now takes 2 plus hours to get through Matlacha. You want to add more traffic by adding a bike/walk path; this means more people on our already clogged streets.”
President of the Matlacha Civic Assoc., Mike Hannon said, “They are not here to solve the traffic problems.
Hannon did ask the committee to explain, “As I see it we do not have the room in Matlacha for a walk/bike path, so can you please explain exactly how you are going to do this before we spend any more money and time and find out it just isn’t workable and the residents of Matlacha/Pine Island just do not want this.”
Oujevolk answered, “We were sent here by City of Cape Coral, Lee County and the MOP- to talk with the community and businesses to see if we can make this work.”
Oujevolk’s answering a question from the audience, “Maybe winding the path through some of the back roads in Matlacha to get through Matlacha and then starting it back up on Little Pine Island to Stringfellow Road.”
Carol S. from Bridge View in Matlacha, stated, “I was looking at the shared path drawing you showed on your slides. You have 2 bikes and 1 walker on the path at the same time. That just will not work in this area. We have people who come here, who have left their brains at home. I have witnessed people walking right in front of a moving car, they are not watching what they are doing, they are on their phones taking photos of the art galleries and now the City of Cape Coral and Lee County want to add more traffic with a Bike/walk path in an area that is already dangerous. In all my years I have only seen a few bikers a year travel through Matlahca. How are you going to make it safe?
Oujevolk’s replied, “We are going to be doing traffic and safety studies in this area.”
Bernard Johnson from Bert’s Bar in Matlacha and a resident of Pine Island stated,
“As I understand it the existing right-a-way on both sides of the road is 12-15 foot, road is 33 foot. If you go to both sides of the bridge the buildings that have been there for some 60 plus years are going to lose all of their parking. If you put this bike/walk path in, it will wipe out all of the businesses and all of the homes along Pine Island Road, because they will have no where to park.
Johnson continued, “You have said a few times we can park in alternate parking; there is no alternate parking in Matlacha. I live in and own a business in Matlacha and if you take the 12-15 foot right-a-way away from the residents and businesses owners, we will have no where to park. You will wipe out a ton of homes and businesses. How are you going to do this without impacting the homes and businesses?”
Johnson finished by asking, “I am on this advisory board, and I have emailed at least 3 times and I still have not heard back and it has been months. All I want to know is when are you going to reply to my emails? Why do I not get a response?”
Oujevolk’s answered, “We do not want to eliminate existing parking. I will check on why you have not gotten a reply.”
The meeting adjourned.
Guest Speakers from Florida FDOT Pine Island Road (CR 78) Shared Use Path Facility Study.
Richard Oujevolk, Project Development Manager FDOT - Transportation
Steven Andrews, FDOT Project Manager
Lauren Peters, Environmental Project Manager
Vitor Suguri, Planning Specialist
(Not in Photo) Anthony Castellone, Consultant Project Manager from Pennoni
The Feasibility Study Completion is scheduled for the third quarter of 2022.
For more information go to:
(Ed Note: While we can appreciate the time & energy required for the project, however, it seems a little like "Nero fiddles while Rome burns." The primary concern should focus on reducing the monumental traffic jam which threatens health and safety of Matlacha and Pine Island residents. e.g., There are already "traffic lights" in Matlacha.)