Council supports funding for widening of Pine Island Road
A plan to fund the widening of Pine Island Road from two lanes to four from Chiquita Boulevard west to Burnt Store Road got some of the local support State Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, said is crucial to its success when the Cape Coral City Council voted unanimously Monday to back a funding mechanism for the project that will cost $66.8 million.
According to city documents, the plan would use tax increment funding, along with special assessments and stormwater fees for the 350 acres of land available for commercial development.
That sector of the Pine Island corridor has long been eyed by local officials as ripe for commercial development in a city looking to diversify its tax base during a housing crisis. Cape Coral’s pre-platted design makes open land available for commercial uses scarce, and the 350 acres along that corridor are 12 percent of all the commercially developable land in the city.
“The economic development side is probably more important now than it’s ever been,” Aubuchon said.
Aubuchon sponsored a transportation bill earlier this year that included funding for the project, but that bill was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist because of an unrelated provision.
“We kind of got shot down over some political issue we had no control over,” Mayor Jim Burch said.
The project is not included in the state Department of Transportation’s work plan until 2017, but Aubuchon said this plan will allow the road expansion to go forward much sooner, with local entities paying the cost up front and being reimbursed by the state.
Getting the support of the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization is also vital to the plan’s progress, and Councilmember Dolores Bertolini stressed the need to sway MPO members from other Lee County municipalities.
“The four members on the MPO had better be there to tell the members from the other areas how much we’ve helped them over the years,” Bertolini said.
While Aubuchon is prepared to introduce legislation helping fund the road widening next year, another crucial aspect of the plan — acquiring the necessary rights of way — could take up to two years, according to city documents.
“It’s going to take cooperation from the property owners, the city, the county MPO and the state,” Aubuchon said.