U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced a $10.5 million grant designated for Lee County during a recent visit to Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve and Lee's bicycle-pedestrian paths. This project is one of 52 transportation projects in 37 states to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery 2013 discretionary grant program.
The Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization, the official grant applicant, worked in coordination with the representative MPO Board, citizen advocates and consultants to develop its application. Based on Lee County's Complete Streets initiative, the funded project builds upon the dedicated and committed work completed through the years to provide more coordinated services across organizations and to plan, design and build safer, more Livable Communities here in Lee County.
TIGER has enjoyed overwhelming demand since its creation, a trend continued by TIGER 2013. Applications for this most recent round of grants totaled more than $9 billion, far exceeding the $474 million set aside for the program. In all, the Department received 585 applications from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. Created by Congress in 2009, the TIGER grant program directs the Department of Transportation to invest in a variety of transportation modes and selects projects to be funded on a merit-based process.
The MPO had cited four target areas for project funding:
- Segment 1: Lee County Tour de Parks Route ($6.5 million) is a 35-mile segment, designed to connect several Lee County parks, anchored by Lakes Regional Park in south Fort Myers, and is focused on significantly boosting eco-tourism in this area. This segment will also connect two Spring Training stadiums (JetBlue Park and the Hammond Stadium) to the multi-use path system, encouraging alternative and active transportation to games and entertainment.
- Segment 2: The University Loop ($2.3 million) is a 15-mile segment to fill the gaps in bicycle/pedestrian facilities linking the FGCU campus to the rest of Lee County to encourage bicycle travel.
- Segment 3: Bi-County Connector ($1.6 million) is to be a 22.8-mile long bikeway segment that links Lee County, the City of Bonita Springs, and Collier County. The project will add sidewalks and new bus shelters to further support the phenomenally successful year-old LinC Lee/Collier transit route.
In addition to projects that are ready to go, DOT assessed surface transportation projects for their potential positive impact on their region or metropolitan area. Projects have the potential to improve existing transportation facilities and systems; contribute to the nation's economic competitiveness; create and preserve jobs; increase transportation choices and access to transportation services for people in communities across the U.S.; improve energy efficiency, reduce dependence on oil, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and improve safety.
TIGER is one more in a number of grants awarded to Lee County for their outstanding citizen lead and staff supported drive for a more sustainable, livable quality of life for all residents, current and future.