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Intersection a crossroads for traffic committee

June 27, 2012
By BOB PETCHER, , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Florida Department of Transportation officials will be working with their counterparts at Lee County about traffic light issues at the intersection of Pine Ridge Road and San Carlos Boulevard.

Management personnel at Indian Creek RV Resort & Manufactured Home Community brought forth property egress concerns at the monthly meeting of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Traffic Committee.

Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah also discussed traffic patterns around the Seafarer's site on Fort Myers Beach and informed the committee of County intentions both short term and long term at the property.

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The traffic light patterns at Pine Ridge Road and San Carlos Boulevard concerns the Indian Creek community.

"It's very important for the safety of our residents and for the bikers and walkers that use this intersection that we get some kind of protection turn leaving Indian Creek Park," said Resort Manager Kathy Claprood.

The issue, which was stated to be on the state docket for six years, has escalated due to the increase in traffic flowing to the Beach during the past year with additional usage of Pine Ridge Road. Claprood would like DOT to install a left-hand turn signal to aid the traffic flow away from Indian Creek and toward Fort Myers.

"We would like a little protected time when we exit Indian Creek and turn left onto San Carlos Boulevard," she said. The community has 3,000 residents during season and 45 employees as well as business vehicles coming in and out of the property.

Florida DOT Assistant District Traffic Operations Engineer Don Cashdollar stated County staff has analyzed it and concluded that it could be done, but it would take time away from other movements at the intersection.

"When we receive a request to change phasing at an intersection, we do a study by looking at traffic at the peak period at an intersection," he said. "All the times that we have looked at this intersection, all the cars from Indian Creek from the south side of San Carlos have cleared through the intersection with no problem.

"In order to provide that phasing that addresses specific things that have been mentioned, we would have to split phase the intersection. In our judgment, it wasn't necessary to provide that phasing and cause additional delay at the intersection if there was no apparent delay from the Indian Creek side.

It was determined that the newly constructed overpass above San Carlos Boulevard has created more traffic on Pine Ridge Road. That pointand the fact that Indian Creek officials have had to pay to reconstruct their roads when a traffic light was added to that intersection raises issues.

"I think the County and State have to take some responsibility for creating this situation for us and give us some sort of relief for it," said Claprood.

"Logically, wouldn't it be more beneficial to this area to specifically encourage more people to use San Carlos Boulevard than to use Pine Ridge Road, because this area has really been harmed from the overpass," said former Beach Chamber president John Albion. "There should be a way to encourage people to go to the areas where the urban core is supposed to be. If you had the dual left-hand turn lanes, that would encourage the Indian Creek folks to come out onto San Carlos towards Summerlin rather than using Pine Ridge. This is an opportunity to influence traffic."

"If we time (the lights) property, that might help alleviate the congestion and keep traffic flowing cleanly and help out the whole situation," added Capt. Matt Powell, West District Commander for Lee County Sheriff's Office.

Informational signage could be used to inform people and influence them to use the double lanes from Summerlin to San Carlos where the urban corridor exists. Pine Ridge should be discouraged for mass transit use due to industrial and governmental businesses on that road.

In the meantime, state DOT officials will meet with County DOT officials to try to find a remedy for the intersection issue. There is hope that resolution could be heard at the Chamber Traffic Committee on Aug. 16, at 10 a.m.

"This is a choke point that needs to be solved because it is affecting what is happening business-wise as well as people's stay here," said Albion.

Commissioner discusses Seafarer's site traffic patterns

After explaining the nexus and justification for wanting to construct an at-grade parking lot at the Seafarer's site for short-term usage only, Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah told Chamber Traffic Committee members about the greater scheme for the property.

"We all recognize that the long-term solution is to utilize the property for re-routing Estero Boulevard and provide other improvements for the turning movements to the traffic flow," he said. "It is important that we have one piece of the puzzle secured through tourist tax money. We all knew in the long run we would need more property to make sure that we had another land area to accommodate the design to help facilitate traffic flow."

Financially, Lee County is not ready to secure more property to make such improvements. Judah stated an at-grade parking lot would eliminate the "visual blight" and create 40 to 50 parking spaces for a reported ballpark figure of $200,000 in generated funds off parking meters that could be shared with the Town of Fort Myers Beach.

County officials are looking at transportation reports and will be reviewing analysis reports from T.Y. Lin Engineering Firm and Morris-Depew Associates during the interim.

'T.Y. Lin will have workshops on Fort Myers Beach so that the public will be able to comment. There are a whole lot of issues they will be looking at," said Judah.

The commissioner has received comment about not beginning the Estero Boulevard project just yet and rather use the $7 million dollars allotted for the first mile of repairs to purchase more property near the Seafarer's site. Also, a roundabout is being looked into at that area.

"Everything is open for recommendations," said Judah. "We are going to take all that input and have an appropriate vetting. We welcome this committee's input and very much value it. With public input, I think we'll certainly position ourselves better than at any time to do what is necessary to make this a desirable place to visit, live and enjoy."

Chamber Traffic Chairman Tom Myers, a longtime Beach resident, would like to extend an invitation to the Town's Public Safety Task Force to join forces with all involved on this important endeavor.

"We've been working on this for a number of years, and we need all groups to work together on this project. Whenever the workshops begin, I would appreciate having as many of us to be a part of that," he said. "We also need to give a lot of thought about how we want to develop (Seafarers)."

Albion believes there should be more discussion about the Town should gaining ownership of Estero Boulevard as improvements are done on the County-owned road.

"Why should the Town want their spine in control of somebody else, when they can have that control and access for improvements, for pedestrian safety as well as for trolley traffic and so on," he said.

The Chamber Traffic Committee meets every third Thursday of each month at 10 a.m.



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