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Question of funding delays road expansion meeting

By Staff | Mar 4, 2009

Lee County’s budget woes could delay the widening of Burnt Store Road north of Pine Island Road, while the number of daily vehicles on that stretch of road continues to rise.
A public meeting on the expansion of the road that was slated for the end of 2008 has been postponed for at least one year over “uncertainties regarding funding” linked to land acquisition around the road and questions over water management that could affect the design.
The current plan is to widen Burnt Store from two lanes to four from Pine Island Road north to Van Buren Parkway, an expanse of approximately 2.7 miles. In later stages the road would be expanded to six lanes.
Lee County Department of Transportation engineer Mike Rigsby said specific design plans could not be made without getting more information from the South Florida Water Management District.
“I really didn’t want to go into a public meeting where I’m not even convinced what lands we need,” he said.
The delay in the meeting does not necessarily mean there will be a delay in the project, which currently lies outside the county’s five-year plan. The county is trying to attain the necessary rights of way in anticipation of the project.
“We’re doing a little bit of land acquisition every year,” Rigsby said.
While the county’s budget tightening could mean less dollars for land acquisition, he said now is the best time to buy since prices are low.
“It’s like everything else, it’s being scaled back … but the land prices are as good as we’ve seen,” Rigsby said.
Because Burnt Store is a county road, the county is responsible for the project, but some ancillary funds from Cape Coral could go to widening the road.
“The city of Cape Coral has an interlocal agreement with the county that deals with surplus tolls,” said Steve Neff, Cape Coral transportation manager. “Our share goes to mutually beneficial projects.”
Cape Coral has been coordinating efforts with Lee County “for decades” on Burnt Store Road, which is seeing an increased need for expansion as more vehicles fill the road, he said.
According to the Lee County DOT’s 2008 Traffic Count report, Burnt Store Road saw a daily traffic volume of 12,800 vehicles last year, up from the 2007 volume of 11,800 vehicles. In 1999, the daily volume was 3,700 vehicles.
Neff knows the project is needed, but when it can be started largely depends on a turnaround in the economy.
“We’d love to see it sooner versus later. If there’s not funding, that is what affects the construction timetable,” he said.