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Public to get first view of SR-78 expansion design

By Staff | Jul 9, 2012

The public, which includes concerned business owners, will get its first look at the long-awaited proposed expansion of SR-78/Pine Island Road on Wednesday.

The Florida Department of Transportation will hold a public information meeting regarding design plans of the expansion from Burnt Store Road to Chiquita Boulevard from 4:30p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the German American Club on Pine Island Road.

Debbie Tower, FDOT spokesperson, said the meeting is informal and informational, and will allow the public to come see the plan for the road expansion, which should increase its business potential and provide an evacuation route off Pine Island.

“People can come in and ask questions, see the plan and speak one-on-one with the project team,” Tower said. “The questions that usually come up are the traffic signals, of which there are none in this project, and medians.”

The medians could be a hot issue for business people in the area. The thought of drivers having to make a U-turn to get to their place of business is not pleasing to many.

Jay Johnson, owner of Bubba’s Roadhouse and Saloon, next door to the German American Club, will be at the heart of the expansion and is very curious to see what it will mean.

“I want to see where they put the medians and how it will impact business up and down the road,” Johnson said. “Expansion will be good because we need more business down this way.”

Details about the project, which has been in the works since the 1980s, finally will be made clear, which is welcomed Cape Coral Councilmember Tom Carioscia.

“The questions about what expansion would entail, the medians and how far they’ll expand, the timeline, when it starts and when it finishes, will all be answered,” Carioscia said.

Tower said the FDOT will hire a contractor next year to expand the two-lane segment of roadway to four lanes, and after preconstruction meetings, more details about the start date and schedule will be available.

To business owners, with the potential of big-name businesses like Wal-Mart ready to move in, it is newsworthy.

But before then, they may have some short-term pain (as in two years) with construction and people’s antipathy of dealing with it.

“There’s a concern about construction and the impact. People don’t like to travel on those roads,” Johnson said. “But it will allow for future growth and give people more reason to come out here. More eyes on the sign.”

The department will hold another public information meeting before construction begins, where people can talk one-on-one with the contractor and FDOT staff about the job, Tower said.

The city approved a measure May 21 to provide the funding mechanism for the expansion of Pine Island Road.

The plan will cost the city less than $1 million over four years, thanks to a spending plan where the city would only have to pay the interest on an $8.8 million loan from the State Infrastructure Bank.

That in contrast to the nearly $54 million it would have cost six years ago for the same project.

But after decades of promises, the project is finally moving ahead.

“It’s a thrill, and you can’t beat the price. It’s a win/win,” Carioscia said. “Businesses will realize what their involvement will be. It’s terrific, a long time coming.”