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Roadway improvements: Beautification, safety — and ‘limited funds’

By Staff | Mar 25, 2021


Cape Coral City Council is scheduled to hear a staff presentation Friday morning outlining plans to help beautify city roadways.

The median landscaping presentation on the agenda has been a while coming.

Councilmember Dan Sheppard, several years ago and well before he was elected to office, began a resident-led effort to boost median landscaping, including a private sector component, an Adopt-a-Median program.

City staff has been working alongside a Median Design Stakeholder Group and Council gave a nod last July to planting templates in an effort to mitigate design costs.

The presentation to be brought before Council at its 9 a.m. meeting is a 19-page slide summation that provides both background and an update on both sides to the effort: Continued taxpayer-funded improvements under the auspices of the city and a greater effort to increase resident and business participation in a mostly privately funded Adopt-a-Median program.

The presentation states that staff has worked closely with its selected stakeholders to develop design templates for medians across the city, with those templates categorized by both theme and the “intensity” of the landscaping deemed called for. Landscape themes include tropical planting and mixed designs for most of the city and, for all but one roadway segment in the north Cape, Xeriscape designs that would require little to no irrigation. One segment of median-divided roadway — the Del Prado extension up past Kismet — would retain its existing “shade theme.” Depending on the median, plantings then would fall into high, medium and low intensities.

Accompanying renditions provide planting details and per-mile cost projections.

It’s a well-laid out proposal.

We especially like the emphasis on private-sector and resident contributions, particularly those that benefit their respective neighborhoods or entryways. To that end, we have little issue with aspects of the proposal calling for the city to take over maintenance, or allowing small donor plaques to let residents know what business or organization funded a median upgrade.

We thank Councilmember Sheppard for his vision of templates so as to save on design costs. We thank him as well for his work on the Adopt-a-Median component.

We also thank staff for its effort in putting Friday’s presentation together.

One key component, though, was likely unintentional — the cover photo sums up succinctly how the median plan meshes with the city’s priority for its roadways.

The introductory slide features a landscaped median with manicured grass and pretty mulched planting islands with palms and shrubs along a divided roadway lined with homes.

But no sidewalks — although we will give points for the choice of a roadway with paved room off the vehicular travel path.

A couple of things.

We agree, landscaped medians are nice. Some are very nice, indeed.

But they are expensive — and not only those that are lush.

According to the city’s numbers, total project costs, including not only the plantings but related costs of access management to get the work done, median curbing, irrigation installation and design, comes in between $945,000 to $1,035,000 per mile, depending on where the project falls on the landscape intensity scale.

Annual maintenance costs then comes in at $30,000-$45,000 per mile. Every year. Add another $1,600 per mile annually for irrigation costs.

Meanwhile, a mile of sidewalk along one side of the street is estimated at $250,000-$300,000. The city can install one mile of sidewalks on both sides of a street for $500,000-$600,000.

Put another way, the city can get about 3.5-4 miles of sidewalks for every mile of median improvement it funds, and without the legacy costs of maintenance and irrigation to boot.

As Council again opens discussion on median improvements, talking about the related who-what-wheres and hows, we suggest spending a few minutes revisiting — and clarifying — the city’s priorities as they pertain to all roadway improvements and their respective costs.

What we have heard previously — and with some frequency — is that residents want more sidewalks.

What we have heard previously is that money is limited.

What we have heard previously is that sidewalks are a top Council priority, particularly along roadways within walking distance of schools and parks.

If this Council agrees, how does that affect the taxpayer-funded portion of the plan on the table for Friday’s workshop discussion?

With budget season ahead, we suggest Council make priorities a part of the discussion.

And we suggest residents make their priorities known.

— Breeze editorial