MANATEE -- As a guide for future bicycle paths and trails, Manatee County developed a plan to identify potential multimodal projects.
The new bicycle/pedestrian/trails plan unveiled during Tuesday's Manatee County Commission meeting will help identify projects and establish prioritization, Clarke Davis, Transportation Planning Division manager.
"We hope that over time you encourage these other modes that will help protect the highway capacity and make sure that it is used for the things that need to be done," Davis said. "Our multimodal approach is one that puts the pedestrian ahead of the other modes. It's not to say that cars and trucks and things aren't important. It's just that people are more important and, if you take care of them first, all the other things will fall into place."
In developing the plan, county staff used land use and traffic statistics to predict areas where bicycle and pedestrian facilities will have the most value, according to agenda materials.
Demographics, crash data, type and location of attractions and proximity to goods and services were also used as predictors, according to the presentation, which showed corridors within emphasis areas throughout the county.
Potential improvements include roadway striping, paved shoulders or bike lanes, sidewalks or trails and shared lanes, according to the presentation.
"Not all corridors need the same type of projects," said Nelson Galeano, county transportation systems engineer.
Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac cited the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail in Pinellas County as "the ultimate."
"That's what we want to get to," Benac said.
Benac said the plan is a way "to make sure we have a prioritization of what's most important."
Commissioner Charles Smith said the planned options are a must for Manatee County.
"Bike paths and trails and things like that for Manatee County is what we really need to move to the forefront," Smith said. "I'm glad we have something on the table."
Commissioner Robin DiSabatino said money must be allocated to clean up existing bike lanes.
"It is really important to maintain and keep the current bike lanes clean," she said.
Manatee County resident Glen Gibellina suggested a referendum asking the voters for a possible 1-cent sales tax to fund multimodal improvements.
"If I had to pay a 1-cent sales tax for one year and was guaranteed beautiful bike paths, I would do it," he said. "It's time to step up out of the box, go to the people and ask for the money."
Also, the commission recommended the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization endorse the Florida Department of Transportation draft tentative work program for fiscal years 2016/17-2020/21.
Several new projects were added to the five-year transportation program since last year, including funding for construction of a roundabout at State Road 64 and Rye Road, turn lanes at Cortez Road and 43rd Street West and bus purchases for Manatee County Area Transit.
Davis said a congestion management fund and a multimodal emphasis fund are top county priorities followed by the 15th Street East project stretching from Tallevast Road to U.S. 41 in Manatee County.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter@Claire_Aronson.