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Road paving project kicks off in the Cape

By Staff | Oct 29, 2013

The smell was distinctive, as was the sound. And it had been a long time since Cape Coral residents dealt with either.

It was the smell of fresh asphalt being laid and steamrolled onto a street, and for many city officials who came out to the area of Southeast 37th Street and 15th Avenue on Monday, it might as well have been the smell of roses.

“I love the smell of asphalt in the morning,” Councilmember Kevin McGrail said.

“It’s the smell of victory,” City Manager John Szerlag said.

While it seemed as if both had watched “Apocalypse Now” one too many times, it wasn’t that far from the truth. It had been several years since any roads had been paved, as the city chose to forego capital improvements following the economic collapse.

On top of that, there was a fight over the financial diversification plan the city manager had planned for the city, a plan that still hasn’t been totally resolved.

Despite that, Szerlag and McGrail, along with council members Lenny Nesta and Rana Erbrick, were on location to witness the kickoff of the long-awaited local road paving project in the southeast Cape Monday morning.

Even before they got there, workers had already begun to lay the new surface down on Southeast 15th Avenue, the first time the road had been paved in more than 20 years, according to Stephanie Smith, design and construction manager for Public Works.

Kiersten Lynch, project manager, set up the “Paving Cape Coral” signs that will be displayed in areas where the paving will happen.

It was a moment of celebration for the city, a moment that was a long time coming, supporters said.

“The city has not had a road paving plan since 2007and I’m happy to be in a city with a visionary city council that realizes we can’t mortgage our future by ignoring capital,” Szerlag said during a brief news conference.

“There is finally hope for the residents who have been driving on those roads for too long and all the problems they’ve had to survive,” McGrail said. “The next two years, all the streets in dire need will be completed.”

Szerlag and other city officials have said that without paving, the roads would have to be replaced within five to seven years, which would increase the cost fivefold.

The city has allotted $4.2 million for paving to be completed this year in the southeast Cape, as well as in the north around Gator Circle, which will begin around Thanksgiving.

“Our residents can enjoy the streets. Our kids can ride their bikes and skateboards,” McGrail said.

That coms from the new public service tax on electric bills approved in June. If the bond validation for the fire service assessment is approved, another $2.5 million will be allotted for paving some of the major roads, such as El Dorado and Hancock Bridge parkways.

Smith said more than 600 tons of asphalt will be laid every day for the next 30 days in the area to pave the roughly 60 miles of roads in those areas, 25 of which are in the South Cape.

The reviews from the neighbors were generally positive. One couple on their morning walk spoke with McGrail to say how happy they were to see the roads finally get paved.

Another neighbor, while pleased with the product, complained that some of the old asphalt ended up in his yard. City workers said they would take care of it.

“It’s a side effect of progress,” Erbrick said.