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Downtown traffic change has businesses concerned

By Staff | Jun 11, 2011

Bennett Agravone has looked out on the intersection of Southeast 47th Terrace and Del Prado Boulevard for more than 28 years and he said it’s not as dangerous as some have made it out to be.
Lee County Department of Transportation officials have some major changes scheduled for that intersection next year, including shutting down any cross traffic and left hand turns, and removing the traffic signal.
Drivers will only be able to make north bound turns off of Southeast 47th Terrace, a move that they say will make the intersection safer for motorists.
Agravone doesn’t agree.
“They’re using scare tactics as far as the accidents being so high. They said it’s one of the highest accident counts in all of Lee County,” said Agravone, owner of Carriage Cleaners at that corner. “There is no problem at that intersection.”
A presentation will be made by Lee DOT during Tuesday’s Community Redevelopment Agency meeting.
Agravone is one of several business owners along that section of Southeast 47th Terrace who plan on making their frustration known.
CRA Chairman Don Heisler said he wants to see the full presentation before he fully forms his opinion on the matter.
He said he doesn’t believe the county would do anything to purposely hurt the businesses in the South Cape and that he wants people to come to the meeting with an open mind.
“I don’t want to see any of our businesses hurt but the overriding issue here is safety,” Heisler said.
Mark Horowitz, an attorney with Warchol, Merchant and Rollings, a law firm along Southeast 47th Terrace, said the county has misrepresented how dangerous the intersection really is.
He also felt the project has been purposely kept quiet as a way to push the change through.
He fears, too, that rerouting traffic so heavily will not only damage the businesses, but force the closure of the post office.
“This has gone under the radar and this should have some transparency,” Horowitz said. “They have not told us one thing about it … no one had a clue about this.”
Lee DOT Deputy Director Paul Wingard said the change is necessary to make the intersection safer and that the move is being made at the CRA’s bequest.
The traffic light will be moved north, near the Malaga Canal, according to Wingard.
He said that the DOT stands behind the CRA’s decision because of the safety concerns, and that the intersection does rank “fairly” high on the point system by which safety is judged.
“This is a CRA issue, not a DOT issue. We’re doing what the CRA has asked us to do,” he said.
The CRA will meet Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., in their offices in Big John’s Plaza in downtown Cape Coral.