PUNTA GORDA — Findings from a Florida Department of Transportation vision plan show residents from Punta Gorda and Charlotte County want to see U.S. 41 as their “green spine.”
The “green spine” refers to making U.S. 41 into “an attractive and safe cross-county roadway that supports beautification, mode (or travel) choice, and reinvestment,” according to FDOT’s U.S. 41 Corridor Vision Plan for Charlotte County.
At today’s Punta Gorda Council meeting, FDOT representatives will present these findings and more from their plan, including ways to deal with the Punta Gorda “drag race” on northbound U.S. 41 near the Peace River Bridge.
In this section of road, it switches from three lanes to two lanes right before the bridge causing snarls as motorists in the left lane — a left-turn only lane from Marion Avenue to the bridge — try to merge to cross the bridge, increasing the likelihood of vehicle crashes.
Coronavirus safety restrictions are no longer required in the city so today’s meeting will be open to the public at full capacity.
“The FDOT group took the feedback that was provided by the general public and the City Council since February 2020, and looked at opportunities and challenges along this entire segment of the corridor,” said Assistant City Manager Melissa Reichert.
Reichert said FDOT looked at ways to improve the design of the roadway in areas like the Williams Street to Airport Road segment.
“(FDOT) designated new areas as a transition between a more highway look and feel to the south and the more intensely developed and walkable downtown Punta Gorda to the north.”
Another example is the Airport Road to Taylor Road section, which takes a broader look at opportunities and challenges along this entire segment of the corridor.
The plan breaks down the U.S. 41 corridor into eight segments, stretching from the Lee County border to the Sarasota County line.
The segments are based on context and community character, according to the FDOT presentation.
Segments four (Charlotte Harbor), five (Downtown), six (Crossings) and seven (South Punta Gorda) focus primarily on those areas within and near the city limits.
FDOT will address concepts for the future of the roadway, such as speeding and enforcement; lighting, signage, and wayfinding; freight movement; traffic signal timing adjustments; speed mitigation at the Peace River Bridge; as well as trails, sidewalks, pedestrian crossings and more.
The plan, however, still has a long way to go before any real changes are physically made, according to Reichert.
“The U.S. 41 Corridor Vision Plan is a long term vision plan,” Reichert said. “Transportation projects take years — even decades sometimes — to go from a plan to a finished project.
“At this point, no new projects are on the horizon as a result of this planning exercise.”