There are more definitive plans for the most effective design within available right-of-way regarding the main road on Estero Island.
After Town officials listened to infrastructure options about the upcoming Estero Boulevard improvements project during a presentation by Lee County Department of Transportation officials at a Monday morning workshop, the Fort Myers Beach Town Council provided preferences to the design officials and later officially approved direction and the allowance of a deviation to the Town's Streetscape Master Plan during an evening meeting. The project is slated to begin in 2014.
Council decided on the need for an island-long center turning lane, sidewalks and some form of bicycle access on both sides of the road during infrastructure improvements throughout the project's six miles of the County road. Donated or acquired additional right-of-way for trolley stops and pull-offs will also be looked into. Chicanes, artificial features creating extra turns in a road, are being reviewed.
The narrow combined segment of Core Area/Civic Complex will be a difficult task for Lee DOT to combine three travel lanes as well as sidewalks and bicycle lanes on both sides of Estero Boulevard. Then there are trolley stops/pullovers to consider.
"People want function as opposed to looks," said Beach Mayor Alan Mandel, after Council nixed the idea of having landscaping on the ROW-challenged segments of Core Area and Civic Complex. The High Rise Area, Quiet Center and South End make up the five segments.
The presentation gave a project recap, summation of key comments at the Feb. 28 public workshop and yielded much discussion on the segments that required design guidance. The Estero Boulevard Streetscape Master Plan will implement vision by Town residents and the Town's Comprehensive Plan.
"We also want construction and timing to minimize the impact on tourism," Mandel added.
While County officials stated the Quiet Center and South End segments received community consensus during the public workshop in late February, Council interjected on the island project as a whole. However, alternative options for the Core Area and Civic Complex were the main focus.
The Core Area and Civic Complex suffer with only 50 feet of right-of-way. Three 10-foot travel lanes (one a center turn lane) and eight-foot sidewalks (ADA required at trolley stop landings) on each side of the road adds up to 46 feet.
Those requirements and limited spacing spurred a heavy discussion on an island-wide bicycle lane. While a dedicated bike lane can be constructed along a major portion of the boulevard, bicyclists may have an option to either ride in a a shared travel lane with vehicles or on a shared sidewalk in those two segments that span from roughly Matanzas Bridge to the yellow blinking light. Casual cyclists may apt to use the safer sidewalk.
"I strongly disagree that we need bike lanes in that (Core Area) section," said Councilwoman Jo List. "Mixing bike riders, pedestrians and cars together is dicey."
On the other hand, the 80-foot ROW High Rise Resort option #3 was favored by Council members due to its ability to involve 5-foot bike lanes.
Trolley pullovers and stops was another Council concern. There was a reported 18 trolley stops in the Core Area/Civic Complex alone.
"I would encourage the Council to consider that it's really important to have these trolley stops," said Town Manager Terry Stewart. "If it means that we need to try to save an extra three feet of right-of-way in order to accomplish that, we ought to encourage that to be done."
At this time, the project has $16.5 million in the County's Capital Improvement Program, says Lee DOT Director Dave Loveland. It is expected to envelop Crescent Street to Big Carlos Pass.
"What we are intending on doing is developing a 30 percent plan," said Rob Phelan, the project manager. "Basically, it is a preliminary plan that details enough information to identify any major issues with construction. We'll be utilizing that to access the priorities for the segments for re-construction."
Landscaping is being considered in some of the roomier segments. The proposed improvements to Estero Boulevard 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.
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. The idea is to make the Beach a safer place for those who would rather walk, bike or take a trolley and encourage others to do so to take some vehicles off the road with a reconstructed road.
A letter with Council preferences and concerns will be crafted by Town Manager Terry Stewart, signed by Mandel and sent to County officials.