Pine Island Road widening OK’d
Widening Pine Island Road between Chiquita and Burnt Store will move along faster than originally planned, much to the delight of local leaders.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization approved the decision on Friday, giving the city of Cape Coral the opportunity to issue bonds to fund the roughly $54 million project.
The city will front the money, which will be paid back by the state over time.
Commercial development has not been allowed between Burnt Store Road and Chiquita Boulevard because of projected traffic levels.
“It will provide for future growth, and create immediate jobs on the ground,” said Mayor Jim Burch, who sits on the MPO and voted to approve the plan. “Its also very good for evacuation routes. Its going to enhance those routes very nicely.”
Improving hurricane evacuation routes for residents on Pine Island and Matlacha is critical, as the two-lane drive between Chiquita and Burnt Store creates nightmares during significant weather events.
Councilmember Dolores Bertolini said the widening is long overdue.
“I lobbied for years and years to widen it for evacuation and public safety issues,” she said.
The right-of-way phase of the project will run from 2009-2011, to the tune of $37,000,719.
The construction phase will take place in 2012 – 2013, and cost $16,781,792.
The plan still has to be approved by the Florida Department of Transportation, which will be voted on next month. If approved, the city’s bonds will be repaid by the state of Florida in 11 years.
Councilmember Gloria Tate said the project will act as an economic stimulus for the area.
Like Bertolini, the project was something she worked on for a number of years, but credits Mayor Burch for working diligently to make it happen.
As for the mayor, he likened the project to another of the Cape’s major roadway projects of the past.
“Its really similar to when the Midpoint Bridge was built,” Burch added. “Our city just exploded with growth … the importance of getting (this project) done will also help to provide for our growth.”