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County pitches new proposal for boulevard

November 5, 2013
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

A new proposal for three major road projects in Lee County's five-year Capital Improvements Plan -one that involves a revisal for the upcoming Estero Boulevard Improvements Project, along with Alico Road four-laning and Homestead Road four-laning- has been tentatively agreed upon by the Board of County Commissioners.

After listening to a presentation by County Department of Transportation Director David Loveland at a Management & Planning meeting in downtown Fort Myers Monday, the commissioners gave consensus for County staff to look further into accepting a scenario that involves a delay in the Alico Road project and allows a better funding strategy for Estero Boulevard reconstruction. The proposed change will be incorporated into the next update in the CIP.

Preliminary design for the County-owned boulevard on Estero Island began in 2007. Stage implementation is expected in early 2014.

"The preliminary design is underway (for Estero Boulevard) and will give us the 30-percent design stage for the whole six miles," said Loveland. "We (propose) to bring in money in the second year for design and the third year for construction. There would be three segments funded for construction every other year within the five-year window of the CIP."

Six segments of work (roughly one for each mile) is being planned from Big Carlos Pass Bridge to just short of Matanzas Pass Bridge, but the sixth and final segment will have to be funded in the next five-year CIP.

"What is not included in this project at this time is what we are doing at the foot of Matanzas Pass Bridge," said Loveland. "That's an additional project. We continue discussions with the Town as to what exactly do you want to do there. We can put some dollar figures to that and quantify that."

The proposed Beach road improvements are still consistent with the Town's Streetscape Master Plan roadway concepts and still involve reconstruction for six miles of the two-lane road, including a curb-and-gutter section to address drainage needs as well as trolley stops, bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the throughway. Coordination with Town officials on water line replacement and Lee County Utilities on needed sewer line upgrades will still be required.

The proposed change adds design funding to segment 2 of the Estero Boulevard project in fiscal year 2014-15 ($750,000 with gas taxes) and construction and construction engineering inspection funding in fiscal year 2015-16 ($7 million with road impact fees) so that segment construction is funded every other year.

"Scenario #2 is a much better option because it recognizes the need to get Estero Boulevard done as quickly as possible at least five miles up while giving everybody time to see how that last mile can be best constructed for traffic flow and safety," said Beach Mayor Alan Mandel. "That gives us time to see what happens with Seafarer's area and all the other considerations with public/private partnerships and transportation."

Projected costs include an additional $9.7 million for the third year of the CIP and $4.9 million for the fifth year for a total of $14.6 million.

County officials will explore all funding options over the next two years. They include grants, general fund, bonding against current revenues, new revenues such as a sales tax and an opportunity for a construction management partnership with Town officials to lower expected costs.

"'We will continue to work in that direction," said Loveland.

While the proposed changes move construction phases back two years for the Alico Road project, County officials will continue to move forward with the current year design and permitting phase and right-of-way acquisition. That project is referred to as more of an economic development program.

Before the presentation, three County residents spoke in favor of the Estero Boulevard project. Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane urged commissioners to defer the other road projects in favor of Estero Boulevard, while Ann Pierce called the Beach improvements the "highest priority road project" and "the greatest return on investment."

County commissioners also believe the Beach road project should precede the others. Safety issues and three road-related deaths were mentioned.

"Estero (Boulevard) seems to be the priority of this commission," said Commissioner Frank Mann.

Commissioner Larry Kiker cautioned everyone on how long a project of this scope would take in best conditions.

"If you start looking at all the planning that has to happen and marrying that with all the traffic concerns and the coordination of the replacement of the water system, the very best case scenario I heard was seven years, and that's if everything fell into place," he said.



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