Final design plans for the initial section of the Estero Boulevard Improvements Project are being digested and finalized by officials and should be completed and viewable to the public by year's end.
That part of the overall multi-year project should be followed by actual construction on the first of six segments on Fort Myers Beach's main road in early 2015. Preliminary design plans (30 percent) encompass Crescent Street to Big Carlos Pass.
Lee County officials supported that proposed action during a recent work session with the Fort Myers Beach Town Council and Town staff members. Keying on the approved first section from Andre Mar Drive to the Lani Kai Beach Resort area pending right-of-way mapping is important, says Lee County Department of Transportation's David Loveland.
"The focus for us initially will be on this first segment," he said. "We will be working with the property owners on the right-of-way encroachments and conflicts. We are identifying those right now, and we will be talking to Town staff on how to approach that."
Funding for that section's design and construction is reported to be more than $7 million and $50 million for the entire project. It was reported that funding will come every other year.
Design issues to be resolved in subsequent design phases include drainage, trolley stops, crosswalk locations, street lighting, landscaping, overhead utilities and ROW encroachments. The project approach is to begin on the northern portion of each segment and work south.
County is looking to hire a Construction Manager at Risk -one that will submit a guaranteed maximum price to County officials, oversee efforts and ensure coordination- prior to final design completion.
"We want to get them (CMR) on board so that they can participate in the final design process and make recommendations on constructability," said Loveland. "We will get a much better feel to see what it takes to complete the whole project."
The Estero Boulevard Improvements Project will involve concepts presented in the Town of Fort Myers Beach Streetscape Master Plan that was completed in 2000, information gathered during the 2008 Estero Boulevard Analysis and Design and a right-of-way study. 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 were pitched early in 2013 to incite Beach residents to provide input on proposed improvements to the boulevard, including crosswalks, bike lanes, landscaping and more. One option involved keeping the middle turn lane but, due to only eight feet for pedestrian use, didn't include separate bike lanes. The other option offered the bikes lanes, but wiped out the middle lane for turns.
With public insight, Council added input to the relative design. Direction included sidewalks on both sides of the entire length of the boulevard, dedicated bike lanes where the ROW allows (shared bike lanes called "sharrows" in Core/Civic sections), maintain the center lane and minimize interruption during tourism season.
ROW conflicts throughout the boulevard, but particularly in the Core/Civic sections, could take business property rights away if the issue is pressed. The Estero Boulevard ROW study was completed in 2010.
"If you go back and look at the results of that survey, you are going to be really surprised how much property the County owns," said Lee County Commission Chairman Larry Kiker.
Councilman Rexann Hosafros, a former Town Public Safety Committee member, would like to see better overall lighting via street lights on the boulevard in the plans.
"Our lighting currently is poor and contributes greatly to safety needs on the Beach," she said. "We cannot see people in the crosswalks at night. It's a very important issue."
County Manager Roger Desjarlais, who grew up in Southwest Florida, stated this particular road project was debated way back when he was in high school.
"There is nothing more important than to get a shovel stuck in ground and get started," he said. "Once it gets started, it's closer to being completed. We want to work closely with (Council) and keep up a pretty rapid pace."
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 is a monumental project for Fort Myers Beach and a signature project for all of Lee County," said Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda. "There is probably no road that people look forward to and dread at the same time than Estero Boulevard."