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County boulevard project on beach to have less impact

By Staff | Sep 1, 2015

A second wave of road work on the main artery of Fort Myers Beach can be expected after Labor Day weekend and continue through December 2016.

Officials involved with the Lee County Estero Boulevard Improvements Project confirmed the timeframe for Segment 1 work from Crescent Street to Lovers Lane during a pre-construction meeting at Chapel by the Sea Tuesday evening. Participants viewed plans and learned about construction details specific to the roadway improvements. A brief presentation -including a descriptive video- was held between glimpses of the display boards that showed information about shifting traffic patterns, safety improvements and drainage improvements.

While there has been traffic concerns linked to one lane of traffic involved with the current Town of Fort Myers Beach Waterline Replacement Project, the message was clear that two lanes of traffic will be maintained along the corridor during the County project as often as possible, but there will be “times of intermittent one-way alternating traffic.” The goal is to minimize interruptions.

“Our intentions are to have two lanes of traffic moving at all times,” said Eric Schneider, project manager for Cris-Tel Construction. “There are some variables that allow us to do that that (waterline project officials) weren’t able to take advantage of. We are going to do the best we can to keep both lanes of traffic moving at all times.”

Expect three phases of construction zones set up in roughly 1,000 foot sections of roadway. Construction officials will be available through block meetings, coffee meetings and other communication channels.

“There will be times we will be in front of your home, your restaurant, your hotel through various phases, but it will be multiple times,” said Schneider. “We need to be able to talk to you about what your needs are and what are needs are. Hopefully, we will meet in a happy medium to how we can all work together.”

The long-planned restoration process will replace or relocate underground utilities, build a new roadway and provide bicycle and pedestrian facilities along six miles of the boulevard. The first segment’s 50-foot limited right-of-way has been planned to include 10-foot travel lanes in each direction and marked with bicycle “sharrows” for shared use by bicyclists and motorists, an 11-foot center turn lane and 9-foot wide sidewalks on both sides of the road along with drainage improvements. This is the first of six planned segments.

“After years of planning and studying, we are now ready to start construction,” said Kaye Molnar of Cella Molnar & Associates, Inc., the project public information officer.

The year-round project will feature an innovative center lane storm drainage system and also replace an aging sanitary sewer force main infrastructure with an upgraded one. County segmented work is developed off the Fort Myers Beach Streetscape Master Plan, adopted in 2000.

The first segment of the waterline project began in July and is expected to be completed by Thanksgiving. FPL has been involved in a pole strengthening project closer to the south end of the island. That work will improve reliability and move poles to the back side of the yet-to-be-constructed sidewalks.

The County work will include “chicanes,” shifts in traffic at trolley stops. The center lane may be utilized during these shifts.

Phase work for segment one also involves shifts, sometimes to the Gulf side and sometimes to the bay side, to allow contractors to install the force main. Temporary pedestrian ways will be built to accommodate those shifts.

In phase two work, the construction zone shifts to the center of the road to install the center drainage system, one that allow water to slope to the center for drainage. Barrier walls are necessary for safety. One lane of traffic will be maintained on both sides of that zone. Left turns within those construction zone areas may require u-turns around the zone in order to get to your destination.

Phase three work involves the contractor re-constructing the east side of the road and building a wide sidewalk. Two lanes of traffic will be shifted to the Gulf side.

Phase four work will have traffic shift to the east on the new northbound and center lanes as curbing and sidewalks are constructed to the Gulf side.

Two major goals of this project include improving safety for all users and improving drainage. Flaggers will be used to direct traffic through construction zones. Information about changing traffic patterns throughout the project will be available.

Continued notifications will come through flyers, door hangers, presentations to various groups, email, media and one-on-one meetings.

Emergency and public services are an important part of public outreach as well. Beach Fire, EMS and police officials have been notified of the plan. Services, such as business deliveries, mail deliveries, garbage/recycling pick-ups, lawn and household needs and bus and para-transit assistance, will be maintained.

“I hope this helps you set your expectations on what is going to happen to you, your town and to your business and to where you are here on Fort Myers Beach,” Lee County Commissioner Larry Kiker told business members and residents during the meeting’s preamble.

Molnar said anyone seeking more information can visit the website at www.reFRESHFMBeach.com .” Construction information will be updated as it becomes available. You can also sign up on the website to receive emails about the project.

Beginning Sept. 14, the waterline work will move to the south end of Times Square and push to Crescent Street. At that time, there will be one-way traffic coming from Matanzas Bridge and one-way traffic leaving the Beach via Crescent Street.

If you have questions or concerns during any part of construction, contact Molnar via e-mail at kmolnar@cella.cc or by calling 337-1071.

History on Beach road work

One must remember that Estero Boulevard has not been dug up this extensively since the 1950s, and a careful approach similar to an archaeological dig is needed. So far during the “deep dig,” construction officials have found items not expected to be dug up, like pipelines unrelated to the project and unjustified fiber optics that were almost cut in half.

“Every time they run into one of these (problems), they have to stop work and figure it out,” Kiker said. “This is not an easy task.”

Kiker referenced the North Estero Boulevard Drainage Improvements Project -completed in 2011 and paid for by the Town of Fort Myers Beach- that gave the mile-long stretch of road a particular curb appeal. It also struck national attention, as other states are replicating the Beach’s ‘complete streets’ program.

“I can remember to this day the pain, the agony and degradation of that job. Today, you take a look at it and when it rains, it is dry as a bone. We have great stormwater management, new utilities and property values went up and business is good,” he said. “These projects can work.”

The upcoming improvements project is expected to cost $50 million for six segments. Couple that with costs for the waterline project and the unplanned bridge to Crescent Street improvements work, and you have one large bill.

“My guess is that this town is going to receive over $100 million worth of refurbishment,” said Kiker. “These projects have to be done together.”