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Al Musico, chair of the Bicycle Pathways Committee, gave the Marco Island City Council an update of the committee's city-wide project, which has been 20 years in the making, during council's meeting Monday night.

The project began with the construction of a bike path near Goodland, Musico explained, and from there it grow into a massive, island-wide project focused on making the city more bicycle friendly.

The first thing the committee did was meet face-to-face with 1,500 bikers and ask them where they ride, he said; committee members literally gave the bikers maps and asked them to highlight their routes.

Those meetings helped the committee determine the most popular routes, Musico said, and it also brought light to the fact that there are two different types of bicyclists: fast and experienced riders who prefer to stay in the street and slower recreational riders who prefer to use the sidewalks.

Based on that information, the committee decided to pursue two different types of bike pathways: in-street lanes for the experienced riders and wide shared-use paths for the more casual riders.

And so the committee formulated a master plan, but, as with any city project, there was question as to how it would be funded, Musico said, and that's when the real work began.

Musico explained that different parts of the project qualified for different sources of funding. For instance, bike pathways built near the island's middle schools qualified for funding from the state's "Safe Routes to School" initiative, while other parts of the project qualified for funding from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) or the county.

It was then that the project took on a jigsaw puzzle quality; what "piece" got put in first depended on what sources of funding the committee could find, so at times, a portion of the project that was perhaps a lower priority was actually be completed first.

But by the end of the day - or at the end of 20 years, rather - all portions of the master plan will be completed, and the final picture will come together.

"When we did the original plan," Musico said, referring to the first bike path near Goodland, "we knew it was actually a 20-year plan before it was all built. And then it was a question of prioritization. So we had a prioritization and each time we saw a source of funding, we would look at our overall plan and say, 'Does anything qualify?' Now maybe I would find something that could qualify that's number 10, but it's the highest one that qualifies, so I'm going to put it in."

There are only two portions of the master plan that either haven't been completed yet or are without designated sources of funding: the shared-use path on North Barfield and the extension of the Sandhill path. But Musico is optimistic that those portions of the project will be complete within the next several years.

"It will have been a 20-year effort," Musico said, "(but) as we said up front, this is a marathon, not a sprint."

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