If they build it, who will come…

Stuck In Traffic by Ed Kant

This morning I happened to read Dave Moulton’s column in the Sports Section of the NDN…something I rarely do – read the Sports Section, that is. His topic was how the NDN has become less than neutral in the ongoing saga of whether or not the Cubs will be coming to town. As one who is less than interested in most team sports, I have not been following this saga very closely, but you would have to have been living under a rock or in a state of denial if you have not heard anything about the possibility of having the Chicago Cubs become part of the new Naples scene.
I tend to write mostly about traffic, drivers, and several other more esoteric subjects having nothing to do with sports. Therefore, in keeping with that theme, I would like to provide some thoughts on what I believe the ramifications of having a large motorist-oriented activity might be as we now settle in to enjoy the new six-lane I-75 (iROX rocks!). One sentence in Mr. Moulton’s column caught my eye. He states: ”From the beginning you have said that you would locate the stadium and adjoining practice fields in an area that best fits the infrastructure of the county (near Interstate 75).”
OK. Let’s take a quick look at what the possibilities might be for a location reasonably close to I-75 for a sports complex, or for that matter any generator (that’s engineer lingo for a land use that generates travel trips) the might cause several thousand vehicles to converge on one location and then to try to quickly disperse from that location.
One area that immediately comes to mind is the still-under-construction “Citygate” PUD very near to the I-75/Collier Boulevard (CR 951) interchange. My recollection of the development potential for that property is that the remaining acreage may be large enough to accommodate the proposed land use (stadium, practice fields, parking lots, stormwater runoff detention, preserve areas, etc.). In addition, the newly designed intersection of CR 951 and Davis Boulevard (SR 84) should be in place by the time the new sports complex is open – if the “Citygate” property is the area being considered.
Let’s move north along I-75 to see if there are other similar properties within a reasonable distance from the interstate that might accommodate such a land use. Although there is still considerable undeveloped land near the I-75/Golden Gate Parkway interchange, I seriously question if the highly residential nature of the surrounding development would lend itself to a zoning adjustment that might permit the proposed stadium complex.
Moving further north to I-75/Pine Ridge Road might bear fruit. There is already a large amount of commercial development nearby this interchange and there is still some relatively undeveloped land in the adjacent Estates zoning. Again, I do not see how the stadium complex could make a fit nor do I believe there is adequate contiguous land available to provide the space necessary.
Finally, we come to I-75/Immokalee Road. If one travels east for about 10-15 minutes, one finds a vast amount of undeveloped property that might support such an undertaking – including the Collier County Fairgrounds area. Ah, perhaps another possibility arises!
If you were here when the Town of Ave Maria first surfaced, you might remember the concerns raised about putting all that development “way out there” with very little infrastructure to support it. One only has to look at how that infrastructure has slowly, but surely, been put in place and continues to grow as both the Town and the surrounding area grow, albeit at a much slower pace than the go-go 80s and early 90s.
OK, perhaps we have two possible scenarios for the establishment of a large traffic generator located relatively close to I-75. Can either of these locations be made to work from a traffic perspective? I will not bore you with the arcana of how Traffic Engineers do their magic and almost always seem to come to the conclusion that there never appears to be any new development that will degrade or further degrade the existing level of service (LOS) of the roadway network. Suffice it to say that even if the development team is required to, and agrees to, provide the entire additional roadway infrastructure, including stormwater runoff provisions, environmental preserves, etc., there will still be public costs. I submit that these public costs will not be insignificant.
For starters, significant additional traffic at either of the two interchanges mentioned above (CR 951 or Immokalee Road) will accelerate the long-tem maintenance and upgrade requirements for both the interchange roadways and the connecting roadways, including Immokalee Road and Collier Boulevard. Although the generator might be required to hire off-duty police/deputy Sheriffs to direct traffic at its gates, there will be larger fallout with regard to traffic dispersing onto the local road network. That consequence and its associated costs are very difficult to quantify. Collier County’s roadway network is very constrained currently, especially so east of I-75. How shall we accommodate added traffic within this constrained network?
If you have ever been to Germain Arena, Miracle Stadium or City of Palms Stadium you are no doubt aware of the madness that occurs when departing the site. Getting there is a series of random arrivals over a fairly long time frame (from one to several hours) typical of most sports or concert venues. Leaving is, however, a much different story. All of those random arrivals that may have taken up to several hours to arrive will leave within about a 20-minute time frame. Madness!
I have no ready answers nor do I purport to be in favor of or against the proposal. I am not a sports fan, but I will have to live with the consequences of this proposal if it ever comes to fruition. I am concerned that neither the promoters nor our elected officials seem to be addressing these very fundamental issues. Some might say it is too soon to worry about these things, but if we do not begin to get some answers soon, it might be too late after the ink is dry on the agreements…

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