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Lee MPO hears alternative to Del Prado interchange

By Staff | Jun 21, 2013

Lark Campisano and Maggie Cavin moved to North Fort Myers because they loved the location – a quiet, rural area within walking distance of the Prairie Pine Reserve.

Which is why they approached the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Authority at Cape Coral’s city hall on Friday to present an alternative to the proposed Del Prado extension to Interstate 75 route that they say wouldn’t disturb the preserve while saving Lee County oodles of money.

The new route, which they say can be built much sooner, would start at Mellow, cross Slater Road, go south through other undeveloped property and end at Bayshore near I-75, a distance of two miles.

The Del Prado plan on the table, which isn’t expected to be implemented for decades, goes north through the preserve and connects with I-75 north of Bayshore with a separate interchange.

Campisano called it an irresponsible expense that would ruin the character of the area.

“We live in the neighborhood and we don’t want to see it go through the preserve. I don’t think it makes sense to spend that kind of money to put a road in the preserve,” Campisano said.

The benefits of their plan are that it’s less than half the distance and will funnel traffic into an existing interchange, Campisano said.

“Their proposed road is much longer. They said about 4.5 miles compared to two miles for our plan,” Campisano said. “There’s an issue with the interchanges, you can only have so many for so many miles, and Bayshore and Tucker’s Grade are not busy enough to warrant another one in between there.”

They also say it can be done now, for much less money, and that it serves the same purpose for Cape Coral: direct access into the city.

“If we do it now or within the next few years, it will be $10 million. If you wait 20 or 30 years through a preserve it will be $100 million,” Campisano said. “We need to do it now if that’s what Cape Coral wants. They want direct access so they can expand.”

The biggest concern is the character of the neighborhood, which consists of larger tracts with many animals on them, wild and otherwise.

“We have a petition signed by everyone in the neighborhood, which have anything from two to 10 acres, with horses.” Cavin said. “We moved out there to be in the country.”

County Commissioner John Manning said he had discussed the alternative and would bring it up with county DOT staff to look into the validity of the proposal.

Fellow Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass was more skeptical, saying the old proposal doesn’t disturb the 20/20 land and that by making one group of neighbors happy, you might anger another.

“It doesn’t disturb the easements along the edge of the preserve. I’d like to know who owns the property (in their plan). How do they feel about it? If you impact people there you’ll have a roomful of people here complaining about that,” Pendergrass said.

Cape Coral City Councilmember Rana Erbrick said she understands the concerns of the neighborhood and welcomes alternatives, but it comes down to what the county wants.

“Their route comes south to Bayshore so I’m not sure that’s a good option,” Erbrick said. “It makes sense. New interchanges get very dicey and very expensive. For long-range planning and land use, the original plan makes more sense.”