Moore About Business: The Future and Present of Transportation in Lee County
What does the future of transportation look like in Lee County? Recently, Executive Director of Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization Don Scott shared what the MPO foresees.
He detailed the 5-year forecast for Lee County roadway and bridge construction. Those who have lived in Lee County—in fact, anywhere in SWFL—for more than 10 years, however, are well aware that actual population increases in the region consistently exceed projections made 5 years earlier. However, all transportation infrastructure investment amounts—on local, state and federal levels—are based on these consistently under projected population increases.
Scott noted the most recent example of this predicament occurred with the COVID19 pandemic:
"One of the things we're asked about is how does it compare to traffic in the past? And obviously, if you're around the last time we had a downturn back in 2006, it dropped down about 10% and everybody said, 'Oh, traffic is great. We don't need to build anymore and people aren't moving here.' Obviously we were proved wrong, " he said. "Again with the pandemic, people said people are going to be running out of here and then. Meanwhile, our growth is back up again and we're seeing that from a traffic standpoint, when you look at the historical traffic, we're about 6 to 8% increase over historical traffic."
And it appears that Lee County will continue chasing under projected population growth with insufficient transportation infrastructure funding for the foreseeable future. Especially, as Scott explained, “On average it takes 10 years for a road project to get done. While just ten years ago it cost $2.5 million dollars per mile to construct a road, it now costs $4.7 million dollars per mile.
He added, “Of course, recent supply chain issues have contributed to the higher construction costs we are seeing today. So even though the overall dollars invested in transportation infrastructure have increased over that same ten years, so have the construction costs.”