Tourism season is here. The Fort Myers Beach population has tripled to quadrupled for the coming weeks, meaning more traffic congestion and a higher density with additional vehicles and pedestrians along the roadways.
Town Public Safety Committee members are concerned for everyone's safety during these times and are requesting certain implementations to help safeguard the public. At their latest meeting held at Town Hall last Wednesday, committee members reviewed a proposed safety brochure, listened to current projects regarding issues and reviewed as well as took public requests to aid in safety on the Beach.
So far, pedestrian aware banners have been strung, shielded lights have been placed at three locations and a concrete railing is expected to be up this week on Lenell Avenue. Sidewalks are being repaired along Estero Boulevard, while excessive signage is being taken down and crosswalks are being relocated to light poles, repainted at certain locations and added on side streets. Two already approved median refuges will soon be constructed and rapid rectangular flashing beacons will be added at two assigned locations - at a new crosswalk just south of Santini Marina Plaza and at the Holiday Inn crosswalk.
The busy intersection at Estero Boulevard and Lenell Avenue needs extra attention between pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicle drivers.
"Our contractor has started pouring the concrete slabs for the crosswalk relocations by Pompano Street, Miramar Street and Tropical Shores Way," said Lee County Department of Transportation's Rob Phelan. "The crosswalk near Estero Beach & Tennis Club should be fully done by mid-March with the RRFB installation."
Estero Bay Improvement Association President Errol Hohmann expressed concern about crosswalk safety at the access at Bay Beach Lane. He stated 1,235 residents are including in his association and alluded to the latest vehicle versus pedestrian fatality that occurred in that crosswalk in late January.
"We are very, very concerned about the safety there," he said. "I don't know of another residential street that accesses Estero Boulevard with as many residents that are alongside Bay Beach Lane."
Town officials will be seeking information on a pedestrian push-button-style illuminated sign at that crosswalk and Buccaneer Drive. Three quotes will be brought to Town Council's attention.
A public education subcommittee of the group is drafting a six-page proposed brochure containing a safety message and information about pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers and vehicles. The members took time to review and edit the brochure that will be brought to Council for consideration.
Safety liaison Jean Webb of the Town Public Works Department is looking into alternative lighting solar LED fixtures for in-pavement measures as well as for pedestrian signs. She is calling other communities to see what methods work best.
Imbedded crosswalk lighting on Marco Island ($25,000 for each of their four crosswalks) has helped. Officials there are spending roughly $800 a year for maintenance.
"They have not had a crosswalk fatality since they put them in," she said.
There are currently 27 crosswalks along a six-mile stretch on Estero Boulevard. That would cost $675,000 for that task alone.
Motion-activated solar-powered pedestrian signs run approximately $6,000 to $12,000 apiece. Placing light on an existing FPL pole was said to be $800, while adding poles is $6,500.
By County standards, the best and most effective light is the rapid rectangular flashing beacon.
The suggested level of lighting per light pole was reported to be one-foot candle of illumination. Officials are trying to keep a consistent level of illumination throughout the island.
Committee member Al Durrett believes the worst congested area on the island is at the Estero Boulevard/ Lenell Avenue cross section. A suggestion to have a VOICE member work the intersection is being looked into. Communities can pay for extra patrol service as well.
Committee member Barbara Mezeske made another plea to keep the speed limit at 30 MPH around the curve beyond Lanark Street past Santini Marina Plaza. A portable digitalized speed sign has been placed at different south end locations to calm speeders. Committee members motioned to ask Council to allow Lee DOT to make a warrant study for speed along that stretch of road.
The safety committee's logo is "Be Safe, Be Smart, Be Seen."
"It encompasses everybody," said Mezeske.