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Open house for Chiquita widening project Tuesday

By Staff | Jan 6, 2010

Pastor Dennis Gingerich from Cape Christian Fellowship Church has watched as the Cape has grown by leaps and bounds.
While it took more than 20 years for his church to take shape on Chiquita Boulevard, the city took shape around him and his parishioners.
That’s why he isn’t phased at all by the thought of a widening project on Chiquita.
“We saw that the city was going to come out this way and we knew there were plans for Veterans Parkway … we knew that someday they were talking about six-laning Chiquita,” he said.
The city has scheduled an open house next week to present some of the road widening information to the public.
According to a press release, the open house will not have a formal presentation, instead letting the public review the proposed improvements and ask questions of city staff.
Although the project is currently in the design phase and a construction schedule does not exist, a few bits of information about the widening are available.
The proposed project will cover six miles of roadway, from south of Pine Island Road to Cape Coral Parkway.
Four lanes will become six, new traffic signals, sidewalks and street lighting will be installed, and the existing open-swale drainage system will be replaced by an enclosed sewer system.
City Transportation Manager Steve Neff said the project was estimated at $70 million several years ago, but that cost could be down to somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million because of cheap construction costs today.
The project was designed to meet a booming population along the Chiquita corridor, but since the economic bust, that growth has been stifled, along with the city’s funding.
“It doesn’t change the need for six laning, it just changes the timing,” he said.
Neff added that the project will exist in two phases, with the first phase running from Pine Island Road to Veterans Parkway, and the second phase running from Veterans to Cape Coral Parkway.
He compared the project to the one on Santa Barbara Boulevard, and said that while no significant amount of rights-of-way acquisition would be happening, he did say the city is trying to compose an RFP — Request for Proposal — that would ask existing land owners within the construction boundaries to sell land to the city.
That proposal Neff described as a “test” on phase one.
Whether or not the widening project could be timed in conjunction with the UEP in Southwest 6/7 is unknown, but Neff hopes so, if city council decided to restart the utilities project.
For now, residents and business owners along Chiquita Boulevard don’t have to worry about any construction in 2010.
“This is not a project were looking to build soon,” Neff said of the widening.
Gingerich said he was taking the project in stride and plans to attend the open house.
He said he anticipates the project creating certain “challenges” for his church and parishioners, but thinks overall the project is important and much needed.
When he began to move forward on his church two decades ago, he said he would see a car only every few minutes on Chiquita. Now, thousands of cars traverse the corridor on a daily basis.
“It’s a worthwhile project, one that’s needed in terms of traffic flow,” he said. “I know we’re excited to see it happen, and it’s a good time to do it now.”