County applies brakes to Colonial Expressway project
Lee County Commissioners have put the proposed Colonial Expressway on hold until they can get a look at a long-range transportation plan due by year’s end.
Officials also cited the project’s price tag, a figure that’s wavered between $400 million and a $1 billion, as a reason to reel the project back in until more information is available.
“We need to slow down a bit,” Commissioner Frank Mann said. “We bought ourselves a breather.”
The Colonial Expressway would connect Cape Coral to Lehigh Acres via a series of tolled “flyovers.”
Though the exact amount is unknown, it’s speculated that a round trip would cost anywhere from $8 – $10.
As planned, motorists would have the option of using a “service road” for free, avoiding the tolls and gaining access to businesses.
Business owners along Colonial Boulevard have protested the project, saying that is it not only unneeded, but could also potentially damage their business with long range construction and limited access to their business.
Pamela Templeton, president of Fort Myers Toyota, said traffic is only bad along Colonial Boulevard during morning and evening rush hours.
She said she has employees who live in Cape Coral who have told her they would not use the flyovers.
Templeton fears the project’s price tag would eventually fall to taxpayers, as she can’t envision many people using the expressway.
Lee County Department of Transportation officials previously have said that bonding the project would rely solely on toll revenue.
“It’s scary on so many levels,” Templeton said of the project. “The whole thing has to be revisited with a whole different mindset.”
Templeton said she plans on getting together with other business owners and residents along the corridor to form a political action committee to address the project and projects like this in the future.
Activist David Urich said he plans on presenting an alternative plan to the Colonial Expressway.
He thinks a “half flyover” would alleviate traffic at the Summerlin and Colonial intersection.
Urich said he doesn’t feel Cape Coral residents fully understand what’s happening with the project.
Even though the project has been shelved, Urich said, it’s not gone.
“People think that because it’s been deferred it’s gone away. It’s only gone away if there’s a better plan,” Urich said.
Frank Mann thinks a better plan is turning Cape Coral and Lehigh Acres into viable, self sustaining communities.
Doing so, he said, would keep people off the bridges and lessen traffic on Colonial Boulevard.
“What are the alternatives are there?” Mann asked. “One would be stronger economic development and independence in Cape Coral, so there would be the need for people to hop on the bridge and come across to do their business.”