By Donna Fiala
Many of you might remember when PBA flew charters for the Marriott into the Marco Airport. Some of those charters were for trips to and from Tallahassee. Some were even charters for the Florida Association of Counties to come to our fine county to hold their conventions and meetings. I was working at PBA, and at that time I learned about the FAC and what they do for the counties in Florida. I learned that they lobbied for the counties when the Legislature was considering Bills that might not be beneficial to the counties. They have intervened many times over the years fighting for our causes and for Home Rule. Their Executive Director, Chris Holley, at one time lived in Collier County and was the director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Naples. We all admired him tremendously and now he heads the FAC. Recently I was honored to be elected to the FAC Board of Directors where I will have the opportunity to work closely with Chris again. With two of us who have affection for Collier County, we should have great representation in Tallahassee.
Also, I have been elected by my fellow commissioners to serve Collier County on the statewide Metropolitan Planning Organization Advisory Committee. This Board addresses transportation issues around the State of Florida, and determines how Federal funds coming to the State should be distributed to the counties and how they should be spent. We don’t get a great amount of money in this part of the state, as we are considered a “donor county.” With limited funding available, we must use the funds we receive wisely and in the best interest of our residents. Over the last 10 years or so, the county commissioners have used the transportation dollars we received to eliminate the terrible gridlock we dealt with when no funds were spent to upgrade and improve our transportation network. Thankfully, these roads and issues were improved before our economy started skidding downhill. We would never have been able to address transportation improvements in the last few years.
Speaking of improvements, Collier Blvd. and Davis Blvd. will be reconfigured in the Fall, a major improvement which will take two years. We will have to be a little patient when coming off I-75 to Marco Island. The State will improve both areas and the intersection at the same time. The FDOT has stated that this intersection has the worst congestion in this 7 county region. They would like to make even more extensive renovations, including an overpass, but funds are not available. This will be the first step toward that end and will correspond with future modifications. It will be many years before we see the continuation of this improvement, but at least traveling should be easier once the construction is finished.
And how about that BRIDGE? Isn’t it fabulous! The State did a terrific job getting the job done on time (ahead of time) under budget and with little obstruction to the traveling public. Once the coordinated landscaping around the entrances on each side is finished, we should find this bridge a source of pride for the entire area. AND – we don’t even have to pay a toll! I’m proud the commissioners decided to dedicate all of the funds they received from the Feds to this one project!