Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Planning in the Heartland
 

In June 2020, the six-county Heartland Regional Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO), staffed by the Central Florida RPC, adopted the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Plan (BPSP). This is the first adopted bicycle and pedestrian safety plan in the region and culminates two years of work.
 
The purpose of the BPSP is to identify the areas in the Heartland Region that have the greatest opportunity to reduce pedestrian and bicycle fatalities, injuries, and crashes. The five-year plan provides guidance to the stakeholders concerned with improving pedestrian and bicycle safety, including law enforcement, local governing agencies, and pedestrian and bicycle safety advocates.
 
Prior to the BPSP, only a small fraction of bicycle and pedestrian facilities were mapped using GIS, which limited local governments in identifying deficiencies and securing funding to improve infrastructure. Development of a GIS inventory of the bicycle and pedestrian facilities throughout  DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, and Okeechobee Counties was completed in June 2019 and served as the foundation of the BPSP. The data contains information including sidewalk length, sidewalk width, location information, construction material and other information. An inventory of safety data, and planned, prioritized, and proposed projects in the region was then developed as an interactive online map.  
 
The outcomes of the safety data analysis reveal a range of locations in need of safety improvements, which are identified in the Action Plan. Locations identified may be the result of high-crash or high-risk sites and corridors, areas, or jurisdiction-wide problems spread across the network. Improvements can involve different mitigations activities such as policy changes, design improvements, countermeasures, infrastructure construction, and behavioral education programs. The Action Plan uses site and location identification to highlight safety problems. A summary of proposed projects and study areas throughout the region that have identified need on the basis of number of crashes (incidents) in the past ten years, proximity to schools, and enhancements to environmental justice areas.
 
Using information, resources, funding resources, and the HRTPO Project Priorities, projects identified in the Action Plan will be advanced for potential design and construction. View the project website, interactive map, and full plan here: https://heartlandregionaltpo.org/bicycle-and-pedestrian-safety-plan/.
East Central Florida RPC 2020-2021 Outlook
 
During the COVID-19 epidemic, the East Central Florida RPC continued to work, though remotely, to serve the region and partners as we completed projects, began new endeavors, provided technical assistance  and directly supported COVID-19 testing sites. We remain steadfast in our commitment to the region as we examine new approaches to planning post COVID-19.  These efforts include utilizing a $400,000 two-year Economic Development Administration CARES Act grant to provide technical assistance to our council partners in response to and recovery from COVID-19.    
 
The East Central Florida RPC received two Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) "Community Planning Technical Assistance Grants" for the 2020-2021 planning cycle. One grant will further leverage the efforts of the East Central Florida Regional Resilience Collaborative to create an action plan, and the other grant will examine food resilience in the east central Florida region.  Additionally, staff worked with a number of partners to secure DEO Technical Assistance grants and will work with the City of Sanford on the development of a Resilience Comprehensive Plan Element and the City of Winter Springs on the creation of a Parks and Recreation Master Plan.  
Coastal resilience continues to be a major part of our collaborative efforts this year and the Council will be working with Stetson University, Sea Grant, and Volusia County to review conservation lands and the potential of incorporating Adaptation Action Areas into county plans. Additionally, staff will be working with the City of Oak Hill and Brevard County to update their comprehensive plans to be compliant with "Peril of Flood" requirements. In partnership with the City of Cape Canaveral, Stetson, and Sea Grant, the Council is working on a regional, multi-state project to help advance green infrastructure solutions in the City and evaluate economic impact of these projects.  Finally, thank you to the City of Satellite Beach for partnering with the East Central Florida RPC to secure a grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to fund activities of the East Central Florida Regional Resilience Collaborative.
Southwest Florida RPC Partners to Establish Food Policy Council

The Southwest Florida RPC in partnership with The Blue Zones Project of Collier County, Florida Gulf Coast University, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and the Collier County Health Department received a $100,000 grant from the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge Program.  The funding will be used to hire a Food Policy Coordinator for two years. In the first year a Food Policy Council will be established in Collier County and will expand to include one additional county in the second year. The project will also receive technical assistance from the American Public Health Association, the National Association of Counties and Healthy Places by Design. In future years, this pilot project will work to expand the Food Policy Council to all six counties comprising Southwest Florida.
 
Additionally, the Southwest Florida RPC was awarded a $400,000 grant from the United States Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration to support economic resilience efforts throughout Southwest Florida in response to COVID-19. This two-year program will allow the Southwest Florida RPC to work with communities to build capacity and assess needs of the region to better plan for and respond to future hazards and unanticipated disasters and work towards economic resiliency. 
Emerald Coast RC Embraces Interactive Modernization during COVID-19
 
Restrictions on public meetings and gatherings for personal safety from COVID-19 have led the Emerald Coast RC to build a creative path to modernization with ways to engage the public. Since late March, all in-person meetings have moved online to GoToMeetings and YouTube Live streaming. With paper maps for public viewing and comment no longer an option, Emerald Coast RC shifted to an online platform of interactive maps to engage and interact with the public.
 
Updating the Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning Organization's Long
Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) with five new projects, Emerald Coast RC staff knew it was essential to reach the public for their valuable feedback. A virtual "Open House" was streamed through YouTube Live as staff simultaneously presented the projects via GoToMeeting and answered questions in real time via the YouTube chat-box. Key to this virtual outreach was getting the public to look at the new projects and weigh in on the additions. To meet that challenge, Emerald Coast RC staff developed an interactive mapping application that was used to engage the community and encourage comment and feedback. Built using Esri's ArcGIS "Public Comment" application, this map allowed the public to view the proposed changes to the LRTP and simply click on a project to "like" it and also enter their comments and contact information for the record. Emerald Coast RC staff also developed a similar interactive map to collect input from a regional bicycle/pedestrian working group regarding regional facilities and gaps in regional trail connectivity. For both efforts, more comments were received than would typically be collected at a physical meeting.
 
In the challenging times of this pandemic, the Emerald Coast RC was driven to "think outside the box" and find new ways to reach the public and gain their vital input. Finding innovative ways to modernize and expand communication through public engagement is paramount to a successful plan and these new industry tools have opened additional doors to reach those goals.
 
FRCA Partners Meetings Schedule 2020  
 
Listed below are the upcoming Partners Meetings hosted by FRCA throughout the year.  If you would like to attend or present at one of the Partners Meetings, please contact Denise Imbler at dimbler@arpc.org
 
December 4, 2020 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.City Hall, Tallahassee
Contact: Denise Imbler  |  dimbler@arpc.org  |  flregionalcouncils.org