Transportation planning is always on the move in the Florida Keys

July 12 – When it comes to the roads in the Keys, partnerships and planning are a big part of keeping the population moving.

Emily Schemper, Senior Director of Planning and Environmental Resources for Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM to talk about the issues facing transportation in the Keys.

Working with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is an important partnership.

Schemper said, “We have our transportation planning program and that’s through a joint participation agreement with FDOT. They help fund projects and studies and a staff person to be the liaison between us and FDOT as well.”

In October last year, the county commissioners adopted a transportation master plan through a grant agreement with FDOT that includes improving traffic flow, increasing safety, and providing more biking, pedestrian and bus services.

In February, the county commissioners adopted a resolution that prioritized some of those projects and it was based on input from all the municipalities as well as the Florida Keys Transportation Committee.

It includes 12 top priority projects and 24 secondary priority projects.

Schemper said, “Staff met with FDOT several weeks ago and did a quick run-through of the projects. FDOT has kind of identified certain projects from the priority lists that we should start pursuing through our consultant, through that transportation planning program and then other projects they gave us a little bit of input about, things that FDOT is already working on, they’re already checking in on certain things and what they may take responsibility for. We’re excited that they have quickly taken on this list and were looking at it and were working on it and giving us the go-ahead to move forward on things as well.”

One item on the list includes a study to determine potential intersection improvements. One such intersection is US 1 and Country Road 905 – at mile marker 106, right after you come off the stretch into the Keys.

Schemper said, “A lot of people know that that intersection backs up when there’s heavy traffic or if there’s any sort of accident. Southbound especially. Sometimes that traffic on 905 will be backed up three, four, five miles up the road. Really the only solution there is to change the intersection itself and that’s going to be a big project coordinated between the county because 905 is a county road and FDOT because US 1 is an FDOT road.”

Another project is to look into the feasibility of adding bus stops, bus stop amenities, more bus shelters, even possibly wifi at the bus shelters, as well as seating, lighting, bike racks and driver notification – especially in Islamorada because that is one of the slowest points in the US 1 stretch from Key Largo to Key West.

Schemper said, “These sorts of things could also be looked at in other places in the Keys. Part of that would be to look at would it make sense to make bus pull off areas in some places and stops along US 1 for shelters? We’re trying to work cooperatively with the Village, as well, because we don’t want to tell the Village what they need to do, but of course it’s a county-wide issue, so we’re all working together on that.”

They’re also looking at park and rides, as well as possibly water ferry service from Miami to Key West.

Schemper said, “Because all of those things will take cars off the road and get people into more mass transit issues.”

Depending on what type of funding is used, the environment is also required to be reviewed.

Schemper said, “The Florida Keys is a very sensitive area, so everything we do we have to look at those sustainability and environmental aspects. Sea level rise issues as well.”

FDOT is also investigating active traffic management strategies, some of which will be coordinated with the Sheriff’s office.

Schemper said, “I know Rick Ramsay’s team does a great job of getting vehicles and accidents off the road. They’re excellent at that.”

There are also artificial intelligence strategies that can be used for traffic management and a technology that could potentially remove the weigh station at the Snake Creek Bridge by Islamorada. It’s called weigh in motion and eliminates the need for trucks to pull on and off the road at the weigh station.

Citizen input is welcome on the various projects at public hearings or any time through emails to the county.

The building permit system will be going live online soon. In order to work out the details, all of the county permitting offices will be closing at 1 p.m. from July 18 to 22. So the lobby hours will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. that week. To learn more about the online permitting project, click here:

A budget meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 19, at the Marathon Government Center, 2798 Overseas Highway. It will also be on Zoom. For more information, click here: