NAPLES — The state-controlled Four Corners intersection in downtown Naples is one step closer to becoming a pedestrian-friendly main street controlled by the city.
After a six hour discussion about the future of Four Corners — where U.S. 41 intersects with Fifth Avenue South — Naples City Council decided Wednesday to move forward on the proposal to redirect U.S. 41 to nearby roads and change its concurrency policies, which dictate how the state and city work on road projects.
Supporters say the plan would create connectivity, and enhance safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists, while supporting the economic development of Four Corners.
Wednesday was the first time council discussed the options of rerouting U.S. 41.
“I think it will be better for business and connectivity and just make it a bigger and more enjoyable downtown experience,” said Michelle Avola, executive director Naples Pathways Coalition.
However, some business owners along U.S. 41 are concerned they would lose customers if traffic was rerouted away from their storefronts.
“The decision we make will reshape all of Naples for years to come,” Mayor Bill Barnett said.
Jon Sewell, a planning consultant with Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., presented his company’s feasibility study findings to council. He offered five options to council members, ranging from doing nothing to working with the Florida Department of Transportation for redesignation and rerouting of U.S. 41, and modifying the concurrency policies.
After a lengthy discussion, council agreed on a hybrid option — a combination of redesignation and changing concurrency policies.
The plan calls for rerouting a 2.3-mile segment of U.S. 41, turning it east at Golden Gate Parkway by the Coastland Center mall, and then south at Goodlette-Frank Road until it connects back up with present-day U.S. 41 East.
That would create a different road designation for what now is U.S. 41 between the Coastland mall and Fifth Avenue South.
During Wednesday’s discussion of the plan, city officials said they would also investigate rerouting U.S. 41 east on Central Avenue, and south on Goodlette-Frank Road.
The city currently has little say over what can happen at that state-controlled intersection, officials said. 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.
City leaders have also expressed concern over the years about the potential dangers to pedestrians there.
Proposals in the hybrid option call for a reduction of traffic lanes on U.S. 41 from six to four, as well as the addition of on-street parking and a bike lane.
It also includes short-term improvements, such as on-street parking, landscaping and minor traffic operation improvements, while seeking redesignation with U.S. Department of Transportation, according to the feasibility study.
Naples councilman Doug Finlay didn’t support any of the options. He said he felt that council owed it to the business owners and residents to conduct a real-life traffic model.
The next step is to meet with the state. There are no current designs, and there was no total cost presented Wednesday, Naples City Manager Bill Moss said.
Assistant City Manager Roger Reinke plans to meet with FDOT officials, and return to council with additional information in a few months.
The study showed that traffic on U.S. 41 would decreased significantly, Reinke said.
Since 2007, there has been an 18 percent reduction in traffic on U.S. 41, according to the study presented Wednesday. Sewell said that decrease is due to increased fuel costs.
Meanwhile, traffic on Goodlette-Frank Road would increase from 1,300 to 1,700 vehicles a day by 2020 if the route is shifted, according to the study.
Although Councilman Sam Saad is in favor of creating an east-west connectivity, he questioned how much traffic flow would be lost with the proposed on-street parking on U.S. 41, which would mean that drivers would have to stop on U.S. 41 to park, slowing traffic.
On-street parking wouldn’t be included at every intersection. For example, there wouldn’t be on-street parking near NCH Downtown Naples Hospital so as not to affect emergency responders, Sewell said.
During the meeting, eight of the nine public speakers favored the plan to redirect U.S. 41 traffic.
East Naples resident Deborah McCormic said she loves the idea of having a safer way to get from the Gordon River Bridge to Fifth Avenue South when she cycles.
However, John Cardillo, a member of the Neighborhood Health Clinic board of directors, located on Goodlette-Frank Road, just north of Central Avenue, opposes relocating U.S. 41.
Cardillo said he is concerned about an increase in traffic on Goodlette-Frank Road, pointing out that there are two school zones and Fun Time Nursery in the area.
For the plan to work, FDOT would need to review the city’s request, and get approval from the state secretary of transportation and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials approval, FDOT officials said.
Connect with Tracy X. Miguel at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tracy_x_miguel/