NAPLES — Naples residents and merchants gathered Tuesday night at a town hall meeting about the proposed rerouting of U.S. 41 to other roads.
The meeting, hosted by the Naples Community Redevelopment Agency and the city’s streets and traffic department in coordination with the consulting firm Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., drew about 60 Naples residents, who heard about the feasibility of redesignating a segment of U.S. 41 in Naples.
The purpose of redesignating a segment of U.S. 41 is for the city to gain local control of the road through the Four Corners section of downtown Naples, where U.S. 41 now makes a sharp turn at Fifth Avenue South. The city currently has little say over what can happen at that state-controlled intersection.
Naples officials are proposing to have U.S. 41 turn east at Golden Gate Parkway by the Coastland Center mall, then turn south at Goodlette-Frank Road until it connects back up with present-day U.S. 41 East. From the mall going north, the road would remain known as U.S. 41.
This change would mean that a 2.3-mile segment of the route designated as U.S. 41 attaches to part of Golden Gate Parkway and part of Goodlette-Frank Road. In turn, that would create a different road designation for what now is U.S. 41 between Coastland Center mall and Fifth Avenue South.
Assistant City Manager Roger Reinke told the crowd that no decisions have been made and a decision could be made to do nothing. Reinke said the purpose of Tuesday’s meeting was to gather community input.
The next step is to present its findings to the Naples City Council within two to three months and get direction on the following options:
■ Do nothing.
■ Develop a mobility plan and declare the area a Transportation Concurrency Exception Area (TCEA), in which the city would continue to coordinate with the Florida Department of Transportation.
■ Work with FDOT for redesignation.
■ Declare a TCEA and work for redesignation.
Among proposals is to develop plans for streetscape improvements, pedestrian improvements, including mid-block crosswalks, on-street
parking and reduction of lanes.
Implementation of any of the proposed options could take three to five years, officials said.
Consulting firm officials said they would be looking at costs to be considered, including stormwater management maintenance, signals and corridor lighting and landscaping maintenance. In addition, CRA taxes could be used for the road, which could help spur new development or re-development.
For about 30-minutes, Jon Sewell, of Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., made a presentation about the preliminary feasibility study at city council chambers.
Following the presentation, attendees mingled with staff and voiced their concerns, while they viewed maps of the proposed area.
The idea to shift U.S. 41 doesn’t please many U.S. 41 business owners, like barber Nick Giannone, who has been in business for three years operating Downtown Naples Barber Shop.
“It’s really gross,” Giannone said. “They are going to put it in the path of two schools, a zoo and post office.”
Both Naples High and Lake Park Elementary schools are along the proposed route that would become U.S. 41.
But not everyone sees redirecting the traffic as a bad thing.
“I see it as a big benefit for businesses,” Michelle Avola, executive director Naples Pathways Coalition, said.
Avola said the businesses, especially on the east side of U.S. 41, could benefit because pedestrians, cyclists and motorists could easily stop at a location.
For this plan to work, the city would need support from the state, which controls U.S. 41, and Collier County government, which controls Goodlette-Frank Road.
A change also would require approval from the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials.
A recent traffic study showed that about 78 percent of the traffic on U.S. 41 had a destination on the road, while 22 percent of travelers were using it as a way to get from the northern part of Collier County to the eastern part of the county.
Connect with Tracy X. Miguel at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tracy_x_miguel/