It takes a village to raze a road.
The Lee County Department of Transportation in conjunction with the Town of Fort Myers Beach is seeking comments and suggestions through an online website and workshops during a project team's development of preliminary design plans for improving Estero Boulevard from Crescent Street to Big Carlos Pass.
Officials from both governmental entities manned an "open house" workshop at St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church Thursday afternoon. It was the first of many workshops to incite Beach residents to provide input on proposed improvements to Estero Boulevard, including crosswalks, bike lanes, landscaping and more.
Conceptual designs of the future six-mile stretch of the boulevard were on display. Representatives from Lee County and the Town of Fort Myers Beach along with the project team answered questions and received comments.
The Estero Boulevard Improvements Project will involve concepts presented in the Town of Fort Myers Beach Streetscape Master Plan completed in 2000, information gathered during the 2008 Estero Boulevard Analysis and Design and a right-of-way study.
"What we are looking to do is make the roadway safer for multiple users like bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists," said Lee County Department of Transportation Director David Loveland. "We want to get input from people early in the process."
The road project is not designed to alleviate traffic volume or reroute motorists to rid the traffic congestion problem that has been a longtime scar on Fort Myers Beach during high-capacity tourism months.
"This project is about finding more roadway capacity. This improvement isn't intended to solve the congestion problem with vehicles," said Loveland. "We are going to add trolley stops, so it could address congestion in a sense that more people get out of their cars and ride bikes and take the trolley to take some cars off the road."
Improvements on the Beach's main road are expected to begin during the 2014 fiscal year. Only one segment has been budgeted (rough estimate: $7 million) of the six-mile project. That segment has yet to be determined, although past Beach Councils have regarded the mile segment from Lani Kai Resort south to be top priority.
"The limits are to be determined based on the results of this preliminary design study," said Loveland. "As we go through this process, that will help us determine the segmentation or how we are going to break it up and which piece is the highest priority. Then, we will refine everything with details for each section."
Community consensus is being hoped for during the input process. The project is not expected to be continuous from segment to segment, due to funding and limitation reasons.
"Every one is pushing me to put money into the capital improvements fund, even though we don't know exactly what the limits are and what we are doing in that first piece," said Loveland.
The study should be finished by fall 2013, making way for construction the following year. Once the preliminary design is completed, a final design permitting phase is next before any construction can take place.
"It'll probably be later in the 2013-14 fiscal year before we get to construction," Loveland said. "This effort will give us a plan for the whole six miles. That way we'll have an idea of where all the utilities, sidewalks and all of that are supposed to be within the right-of-way. The rest is kind of dependent on money."
A piecemeal of the segment work would not upset needed Town water utility or storm water work, according to Public Works Director Cathie Lewis. Breaks in between road construction may actually be beneficial.
"If we did (all segments together), it'll seem like this road is under construction forever," said Loveland.
The Town Streetscape Master Plan includes six segments: the completed North End, Core Area, Civic Complex, Quiet Center, High Rise Resort and South End.
Due to only 50 feet of ROW on the Core Area and Civic Complex, two options for design on those sections of the County-owned road involve one that keeps the middle turn lane but, due to only eight feet for pedestrian use, doesn't have separate bike lanes, and another that offers the bikes lanes, but loses the middle lane for turns. Standards for both sidewalks and bike lanes are five feet for each.
Online comments have included requests for installing traffic circles, proper lighting for safety, making Crescent Street a one-way road, replacing the turn lane with a refuge median to allow a bike lane, a monorail system, a mid-island bridge, synchronized lights installed at crosswalks, adding speed bumps near crosswalks and more.
More workshops will be announced in the future. Go to www.leecountytownhall.com for more information and to give comments and suggestions.