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Forward Pinellas 2023 Annual Report

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The 2023 Forward Pinellas Annual Report provides an overview of the organization’s role in planning for Pinellas County’s future, including transportation, land use, and housing. It highlights the Strategic Business Plan, partnerships for project advancement, and specific achievements such as the adoption of the Housing Compact & Action Plan and progress on transportation initiatives like the SunRunner. The report outlines next steps, including the adoption of the 2050 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), updates to local comprehensive plans, and strategies for affordable housing and transportation improvements.

The report also emphasizes Forward Pinellas’ commitment to enhancing mobility, supporting regional transit initiatives, and fostering community engagement. It showcases efforts in improving safety for all modes of transportation, addressing climate change through resilient infrastructure, and promoting economic development. Additionally, it outlines strategies for leveraging technology and innovation in transportation planning and operations, emphasizing collaborative efforts with local and regional partners to achieve sustainable growth and improve the quality of life in Pinellas County.

The section on US 19 in the Forward Pinellas 2023 Annual Report outlines efforts to improve one of the county’s busiest roadways through collaborations with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and local governments such as Clearwater and Pinellas Park. The improvements include:

  • Harn Blvd. Overpass: To address the barrier created by US 19 between SR 686 and SR 60 for pedestrians and cyclists, Harn Blvd. was chosen for an elevated pedestrian crossing. This crossing will enable residents to safely and quickly traverse US 19, providing access to destinations and linking with the Pinellas Trail Loop.
  • Park Blvd. Dual Left Turn Improvements: Aiming to alleviate congestion, this project added a southbound turn lane on US 19 at Park Blvd. It involved eliminating a sub-standard bicycle lane and reducing median width to construct an additional turn lane, enhancing the intersection’s capacity to handle a larger volume of traffic and reduce delays.
  • New Interchanges and Roadway Improvements: The initiative began to transform US 19 north of SR 580 to the Curlew Rd. intersection into a partially controlled access expressway with frontage roads. Goals include implementing pedestrian crossings every half-mile, constructing an interchange at Curlew Road, and building overpasses at Republic Drive and Northside Drive. These changes aim to separate local from through traffic, boosting regional mobility, enhancing local accessibility, and decreasing accidents​​.

The partnerships section of the 2023 Forward Pinellas Annual Report highlights the organization’s collaborative efforts to engage the public and facilitate cooperation among government agencies and the private sector across regional and local levels. Key points include:

  • Close Coordination with Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA): Forward Pinellas is deeply involved with the PSTA, particularly in the technical evaluation of the SunRunner and future transit corridors. This is part of the planning for the Advantage Pinellas 2050 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). The SunRunner has seen substantial use since its launch, with over 1 million riders, indicating strong local support and anticipated growth through Transit Oriented Development around stations.
  • Partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT): FDOT is recognized as a significant funding and construction partner, responsive to Forward Pinellas’s priorities, policy directions, and technical inputs. This includes safety and traffic flow improvements on the US 19 corridor, Gulf Boulevard, and Skinner Blvd./SR 580, among others. FDOT has also adapted to provide more flexible funding options to meet specific needs.
  • Grant Programs and Planning Projects: Forward Pinellas offers grant programs for transportation initiatives like Complete Streets, requiring local governments to apply for funding. The organization supports the 25 local governments within its jurisdiction through planning projects and technical assistance, addressing common issues and helping update comprehensive plans as needed.
  • Regional Collaboration with the Sun Coast Transportation Planning Alliance (SCTPA): Efforts are being made to merge the metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) of Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco Counties into a single Tampa Bay MPO. This move aims to enhance regional collaboration and has been supported by a Memorandum of Understanding, a public survey with 1,732 responses, and a report to the Governor and Florida Legislature​​.

The 2050 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) section of the report outlines the early stages of planning for the Advantage Pinellas 2050 LRTP. This plan, last adopted in 2019, undergoes revision every five years to incorporate new socioeconomic data, travel patterns, and local priorities. The upcoming plan will leverage the latest demographic data from the decennial Census, incorporate the most recent project cost estimates, and take into account shifts in travel and employment trends influenced by post-pandemic realities.

Public outreach is a significant component of the planning process. Forward Pinellas conducted a statistically valid community transportation survey in Spring 2023 to gather public preferences and priorities for transportation improvements. Additionally, the organization planned to conduct three focus groups with residents for more in-depth feedback and engaged in various public outreach efforts through print publications, social media, and community events, such as local festivals and markets.

To further engage the community and gather input, Forward Pinellas launched the Advantage Pinellas Participation Challenge, an interactive website inviting people to share their ideas for future transportation projects. Participants in this challenge have the opportunity to earn tickets to win prizes, encouraging broader public participation in the planning process​​.

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