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Pine Island Road widening comes down to money

By Staff | Jul 31, 2010

The Cape Coral City Council is holding off on an agenda item on the widening of Pine Island Road until city staff researches cheaper options.
The council was going to approve a shortlist ranking of firms to create a Transportation Special Assessment Methodology to widen the road, but city spokesperson Connie Barron said it was delayed so staff could explore other options of financing the project.
Overall, the city would be responsible for a total of $54 million, split into $37.7 million for the right of way acquisition and $16.7 million for construction costs, but councilmembers are now hoping to see if abutting property owners will donate the properties to the city.
The plan to ask people to donate that property would more than cut the project in half and make it more feasible to do now in these economic times, said Councilmember Bill Deile.
“It looked from the meeting we had last Monday that we would not approve it because we didn’t have all of that money to put up front and get paid back over a period of years,” he said.
Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, was instrumental in orchestrating the deal between the city of Cape Coral and state under the Transportation Backlog Authority legislation.
Mayor John Sullivan said the previous plan had the city paying for the project, receiving $5 million a year from the state over 11 years, and in the end having built up $47 million worth of interest payments.
“I think it is a state project and the state should pay for it,” said Sullivan. “Gary Aubuchon wants to come in and talk about it because he is one of the architects of that deal. We pulled it and we will give him a chance to speak his piece and we will make a decision whether to go forward or not.”
Gloria Tate, a former city councilwoman who worked on the project, said the city previously considered having residents donate properties for the widening, before Aubuchon earned state backing. She said that 55 percent of property owners at that time had agreed to donate.
Widening the road is expected to be an economic boon to the Pine Island Road district, but could also improve the city’s hurricane evacuation routes.
The widening project has been in the works for nearly 20 years.
Cape Coral City Councilmember Marty McClain would like to see it move forward.
“What we need to research if we’re going to move forward is the increased property values to see if we can get tax increment financing,” McClain said, adding failure to approve the project probably means it won’t get done in the near future.
“It we wait for the county or state to do it, we’re way down on the pecking order, “ he said. “We may not see it in our lifetimes.”
McClain says the widening project is supported by the affected property owners
“I’ve heard property owners are really pushing this forward to get it done,” he said, adding the city, literally, has to start looking down the road.
“We have to stop looking at today and start looking at the future,” McClain said.
“The feedback I’m getting from the architects are there are a lot of drawings being pulled off the shelves. People are testing the waters, these are long-term projects and it usually takes a lot of time before they come out of the ground.
“I’m in favor of moving forward,” he added. “It’s not anything they’re going to be moving equipment on next week.”
Projects linked to the widening would be two to four years away, minimum, he said.