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City moves ahead with plan to close bridge; Closure planned for Thursday

By Staff | Apr 8, 2008

The Cape Coral City Council stuck by a decision made last month to close off the bridge on Southwest 28th Street to non-emergency traffic in the face of criticism by a handful of residents at Monday’s meeting.

Lee Stevens, who has lived on Southwest 12th Avenue for 23 years, submitted a petition to the council with 70 signatures opposing the bridge’s closing. He said he likes the dual entrances to his community, pointing out that it allows for alternate routes back to his home in case of an accident or heavy traffic.

“The majority of the people in my community are against closing the bridge,” Stevens said. “To exclude us from the discussion is like saying the taxpayers are meaningless.”

He argued that the city could have used other methods to slow down traffic such as installing stop signs or speed bumps and increased police patrols, which would cost the city few dollars and would not inconvenience the community as much. However, city staff and residents supporting the closure argued against those ideas, saying stop signs could cause additional dangers and citing the cost of their installation.

Some against the closure conceded that the best course of action may be closing the bridge, but agreed that the proper process debating this decision was not followed.

“There is not enough information to close the bridge,” said resident Ricardo Robles. “There’s so many questions that are not answered.”

Council decided last month to seal the bridge with a temporary barrier starting Thursday after residents petitioned the body to make the move citing safety issues caused by speeding cars and heavy traffic using the roadway as a cut through between Skyline and Chiquita boulevards.

Those residents also pointed out that a developer has assembled additional parcels of land near Home Depot and the bridge and could turn the land into a major commercial development which would generate more traffic.

But the decision closing off the road was not offered up for public discussion during a council meeting and there was no traffic study demonstrating the need to close off the road.

The lack of public input disturbed Mayor Eric Feichthaler and he reiterated that the reasoning behind his vote against closing the bridge was that it flew in the face of transparent government.

“The process that we were following is flawed. If we used this for any other process I think we would have had it handed to us,” he said.

The city also does not have a cost estimate for the permanent barrier, a siren activated gate that would open for emergency vehicles, though the project will be bid out to local contractors.

Jimmy Jones, who lives on the intersection of Southwest 28th Street and Southwest 13th Avenue, told the council Monday that he has seen cars traveling in excess of 65 mph on the residential roadway. He said the bridge’s closure would hurt him, but the added safety is worth the cost.

“It’s a major inconvenience for that bridge to be closed, but if it’s going to slow the traffic between those two streets I support it,” Jones said.

“The speed as these people travel up and down this street is unbelievable,” said resident Ed Fishburn.

One proponent of the closure did promise that he would continue to participate in future debate. Councilmember Bill Deile pledged to three residents strongly opposed to the closure to attend a future public meeting on the issue.

A date and place for such a meeting has yet to be set.

The council will have to take up the question of a permanent barrier at a future meeting when it votes on a consent agenda item authorizing the work.

Deile and several other members of council promised to closely monitor how the temporary barrier affects traffic and citizens’ reaction to the closure when it goes into effect on Thursday.

“We’ll see how it works come the 10th,” said Deile.