The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the MPO are partners whose missions are closely aligned. During its annual update to the agency’s five-year work program, FDOT’s District 1 asks the MPO for transportation priorities, including projects for state roads in Lee County. Projects might include adding travel lanes, bike lanes, pathways, or sidewalk; building new roads or bridges; or improving an intersection, for example.
Not every new MPO priority is added to the work program, however. Federal and state funds are not unlimited, and the budget can become challenging for a five year work program that also includes aviation, transit, rail, and interstate projects along with roadway maintenance jobs. Understanding that, the MPO board makes difficult decisions and ranks competing priorities in order of need. Community members have contributed to the discussion and advisory committees have made recommendations to the board. FDOT selects priorities (identified by production phase) for the five year work program that fit with fiscal projections and take the next step toward construction.
It often is a long road from planning to pavement. Producing a major project is expensive, costing tens, even hundreds of millions of dollars. Each of four project production phases averages two years of work but sometimes more. From start to finish, without interruption to the production process, the timeline is about eight to 11 years depending on the job’s complexity. Add to that another five years because, during its update, FDOT usually places a new project’s first production phase in the work program’s outer fifth year. Why not sooner, in an earlier year? The existing work program is balanced financially with previously included MPO priorities.
Throughout the development of the five-year work program, FDOT explores opportunities to accelerate projects wherever possible. Different funding options or partnerships, Efficient Transportation Decision Making, potential design/build approaches to jobs, and donations of right-of-way sometimes present alternatives that save time and money.
Recognizing the project production process is lengthy underscores the importance of responsible planning. Accordingly, the MPO continues to identify future projects that will serve the community well and requests FDOT focus fiscal and production resources on their development and construction.