TAVARES – "Our transportation plans are like a large tanker sailing the ocean," explained the moderator. "You can’t turn a tanker on a dime. It takes time for adjustments to yield results. Changes to plans may take a generation to see to fruition."
That was one of several messages delivered by T.J. Fish, executive director of the Lake~Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization to a room of elected officials and professional planners attending a kickoff workshop on the development of the MPO’s 2035 Transportation Plan. The focus of the meeting was the relationship between land use plans of local governments and the MPO’s new transportation plan, which is to be completed by early 2010.
The public workshop is the first in a series of outreach efforts to be hosted by the Lake~Sumter MPO throughout 2009. Workshop attendees included members of the MPO governing board and its advisory committees, elected officials, city and county administrators and staff, state transportation agencies and other interested parties.
Transportation plans, which provide an anticipated schedule of transportation improvements over a 20-year planning horizon, are required by federal and state statutes for urbanized areas with a population of 50,000 or more. They must be updated at least every five years to reflect changes in population, demographics, economy, travel patterns and funding opportunities.
The MPO adopted its first transportation plan in December 2005, covering all of Lake County and a one square-mile portion of Sumter County (The Villages) through the 2025. The 2035 Transportation Plan will cover both Lake and Sumter counties, in their entirety, creating the first truly regional plan for the area.
The workshop, beyond providing general details about the upcoming 2035 Transportation Plan development, focused on developing an MPO-preferred future land use projection for the region. Two alternative future land use scenarios were presented to the workshop attendees with details on how the data was derived.
One scenario’s projections were based on the current future land uses implemented as part of the 21 local government comprehensive plans within the two-county region. This scenario is also known as “The Trend,” as it will continue the development patterns that have occurred in recent history.
The other scenario’s projections were based on the ideals of preserving conservation lands and countryside, creating population centers with connecting corridors and reducing suburban sprawl. These ideals have surfaced from the public involvement components of several visioning exercises held throughout Central Florida area, including Lake County’s ongoing Our Community – Our Future series.
Following the presentations, workshop attendees dispersed into three separate discussion groups based on geographic interests: South Lake; East Lake; and North Lake/Sumter. Discussions focused on land use, funding, roadway improvements and mass transit and how each should be considered in the 2035 Transportation Plan.
One of the participants, Lori Barnes, senior planner with Lake County Economic Growth & Redevelopment stated that “the land use model should present results that show transportation driving land use.”
Said Minneola Mayor David Yeager, “It is important that we see things regionally and how we each fit into that regional picture,” referring to the roles of municipalities. “Minneola’s new interchange and road network will be in the plan. Those improvements will positively affect a large portion of Lake County.”
The next steps will include: (1) evaluation and determination of an MPO-approved land use data set, (2) updating the 2035 Central Florida Regional Planning Model (the regional traffic modeling software developed by the Florida Department of Transportation to forecast future traffic patterns), (3) development of a financial resource plan, (4) goals, objectives and policies, (5) selection criteria for candidate projects, (6) development of an MPO needs plan and (7) development of a cost-feasible plan, and (8) final adoption of the 2035 Transportation Plan in early 2010.
"The public will drive this final plan" explained Fish. "Because it must be a cost-feasible plan, we have to show how we will pay for projects. That means the public will have to tell us what funding mechanism are appropriate in order to see their plan into action."