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Cape to consider funding plan for Pine Island Road

By Staff | May 19, 2012

The long-awaited expansion of Pine Island Road from Burnt Store Road to Chiquita Boulevard is back on the table and at a price that is much less than earlier proposed.

Cape Coral City Council will consider Monday a funding mechanism to get that final portion of SR 78 expanded.

The resolution would approve a State Infrastructure Bank loan to FDOT for loan documents authorizing the city to borrow funds from the SIB to permit the city to advance funds to FDOT for expansion.

The city would then receive funds to offset the costs from future allocations from the Metropolitan Planning Organization, meaning the MPO would pay the principal of the construction loan, with the city paying only the interest.

Originally, the widening was estimated to cost $54 million, with $37.7 million for the right-of-way, when proposed during the boom years.

But a chain of events led to the city getting the chance of a lifetime, according to Persides Zambrano, Public Works planning manager.

“The FDOT funded the right of way without using city money for $14 million; we then applied for a loan from the SIB for construction, which had gone down, for $8.8 million,” Zambrano said.

The loan (and the project) will cost taxpayers $900,000 over four years, Zambrano said.

“It’s been quite a ride. We’ve been working on it for many years,” Zambrano said.

The expansion will provide those on Pine Island a better evacuation route in the event of a hurricane, as well as widen the last remaining section of road under the state’s jurisdiction, which should provide more commercial opportunities in an area that lacks it.

“First and foremost, it’s for evacuation. It will also help us develop real estate,” said Mayor John Sullivan, who brought forth the resolution. “This has been in the works since before I moved here.”

It’s actually been in the works since the late ’90s. But due to budget constraints and the rising cost of labor, the project went nowhere until now.

Perhaps no one is more thrilled than former city council member Gloria Tate, who helped start the ball rolling on the expansion of Pine Island Road and witnessed many near misses.

“It’s rewarding to see this come to fruition. It’s the last area of strong commercial development with a clean canvas,” Tate said. “It’s been a long and winding road.”

Former mayor Joe Mazurkiewicz started in the ’80s by jumping Metro Parkway expansion and getting much of Pine Island Road expanded before the money for the last segment was used for other projects.

“We got many segments of that road expanded in a row but it got gobbled up and sent to Metro Parkway and the university,” Mazurkiewicz said. “It was our turn to get back in. It was tit-for-tat. That’s politics.”

Zambrano said construction would be put out to bid next spring, with completion set for sometime in 2015.