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Proposed interchange for Del Prado / I-75 debated

By Staff | Feb 11, 2010

Lark Campisano’s neighbors voiced their displeasure with the proposed Del Prado / I-75 interchange at a community meeting early this week, but she fears their numbers weren’t enough to repel what she believes would be the inevitable chaos the proposed project could one day bring to rural North Fort Myers.
Campisano said people who make up the majority of the 70 or so households that comprise her neighborhood made an appearance at the Monday meeting.
She said people were happy to have their questions answered at the meeting, but most left wondering what, if anything, comes next.
She added that most still felt as if their voices weren’t being heard.
“I still feel like it’s hard to get people to listen to you,” Campisano said of the county’s elected officials. “People at the meeting were on the same page, but I think they felt like, where do we go now? What do we do now?”
The proposed Del Prado interchange is on the county’s 2030 transportation vision plan.
It was approved by county commissioners five years ago, but right now has no start date, and no funding.
The interchange is estimated to cost $81 million, but no one on the local level has any idea where that money will come from.
Campisano’s neighborhood would bear the brunt of inconvenience should the interchange ever be built.
Campisano would especially be affected by the interchange, as the western section of that roadway would not only cut across a piece of Prairie Pines Preserve — county protected Conservation 20/20 land — but come up right against Campisano’s property, literally putting the interstate in her backyard.
Citizen activist David Urich, a former member of Responsible Growth Management Coalition Inc., doesn’t oppose the interchange, only its location.
Urich was the guest speaker at Monday’s meeting, where he presented several options for the interchange, including moving it to the northern tip of the preserve, or not building it at all.
Urich said that most of Campisano’s neighbors didn’t know there were options for the interchange, and that he believes county commissioners will have to re-examine the project.
“I think the commission has to listen,” he said. “It probably wasn’t a bad idea back when they signed off on it … but things have changed dramatically.”
County Commission Chairwoman Tammy Hall said last week the project is currently unfunded, and will probably remain that way for many years to come.
Still, those assurances have done little to ease Campisano’s fears. She said she chose the area eight years ago for its rural qualities, and now those same attributes are being threatened.
Campisano and her neighbors are now eyeing a joint Lee-Charlotte County Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting in March where the two entities plan on discussing the interchange and its possible locations.
She’s hoping that meeting won’t be her neighborhood’s final stand but, unfortunately, it’s looking that way.
“It’s still up in the air if we’re going to send a representative or we’re all trying to go,” she said.