Port Charlotte is an unincorporated community in Charlotte County, Florida. The community is bisected by US 41, a high-speed, high volume, multi-lane road. The road separates residential and commercial land uses, creating a formidable barrier between where people live and their destinations for dining, shopping, recreation and other uses. Crossing the road is a significant challenge due to its width, infrequent crossings and danger posed by turning vehicles.
The road is under the jurisdiction of Florida DOT, which recently proposed widening several intersections to accommodate growing traffic volumes. The proposed changes would worsen walking conditions and potentially make residents more reliant on cars for their daily needs. The proposed changes were an obstacle to the Charlotte Harbor Community Redevelopment Authority's (CRA) vision for a more walkable, active community.
The County, in collaboration with Project for Public Spaces and Livability Solutions' designated technical assistance provider (Walkable and Livable Communities Institute), designed a program of technical assistance to accomplish the following objectives:
The first day of the on-site visit was spent with County and state DOT staff gaining an understanding of current transportation challenges and proposed projects. Following that the WALC team visited ten locations in Port Charlotte where local stakeholders wished to improve pedestrian access.
The second day of the on-site visit began with a presentation to County Commissioners on the principles of walkability, common barriers to active transportation and best practices for creating more walkable communities. The session included a discussion about the phasing and funding of active transportation projects.
That afternoon a workshop on walkability was held for local stakeholders, which included County staff, residents, business owners and consultants. As with the presentation to County Commissions, the workshop included a briefing on common barriers to and best practices of walkable communities. The majority of the workshop was devoted to walking audits. Led by WALC staff, workshop participants walked key intersections of US 41 and other locations to better understand the pedestrian experience in Port Charlotte. An individual in a motorized wheelchair was observed having difficulty due to absent curb ramps. At the workshop's conclusion all participants shared their observations and WALC helped participants develop consensus on priorities. An evening meeting was also held, using a truncated curriculum, for those unable to attend the afternoon workshop.
Charlotte Harbor CRA facilitated an Advisory Committee meeting which included a presentation on the final report from the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute "Toward Walkable Places: Parkside and Charlotte Harbor."