Chamber Hears reFRESH Estero Update

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Technical Difficulties & Full Speed Ahead

“I heard the song, ‘Bad Day,’ on my way here this morning,” said Kaye Molnar, spokesperson for the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects to the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce breakfast at Charley’s Boat House on Thursday, March 9. “And now for the first time in 20 years, my PowerPoint doesn’t work! I will donate it to Fish-Tale Marina as a boat anchor!” Despite the technical difficulties, Kaye and a cadre of Estero Boulevard experts discussed the roadway project the old-fashioned way, along with its stormwater and related utility components.

Kaye began with the basic question: “’Where are we now, and what is left to do?’ Times Square to mostly Lovers Lane has the waterline in place. We are installing the water main on the beach side from Lovers Lane to Washington Avenue and water main work on the Gulf sidestreets from Gulfview Avenue to Madera Road, and are filling in gaps from Washington to Gulfview, including testing of the pipes. We are laying the main drainage pipe in the Estero Boulevard center lane from Chapel Street to Bay Road, and once that is done this April, Segment 1 of reFRESH Estero Boulevard is basically connected and complete. From Lovers Lane to Coconut Drive is force main work, with crews surveying utilities from Strandview Avenue to the south end of the island.”

island sand paper, fort myers beach news, estero blvd construction updateIn addressing the final two Segment 1 construction zones, she related that “Crescent to Miramar Streets is done, and we are shifting traffic to the center and bay lanes so we can build the Gulf curb and sidewalk to finish from Miramar to Pearl Streets. We will do signage and markings from Pearl to north of Chapel Street, meaning we should be done with everything in that section by early April.”

The Last Push

To Kaye, “the sticking point is the concrete barrier wall from Chapel Street to Lovers Lane, and the part people are not loving right now, for the installation of the center drainage system, but we only have about one more week of work left putting pipe in the ground until we reach Bay Road, so we are moving quick now. Once the concrete wall goes away near the end of March, workers will rebuild the bay sidewalk and roadway, then do the beachside road and sidewalk. At that point, around Easter, we will essentially be done with Segment 1, so we really are at the last push here!”

Jim Molnar, of T.Y. Lin International Civil Engineers, told the audience that designers “selected the inverted crown for the rebuilt road because one side of Estero Boulevard is often a foot or two higher than the other, so trying to match those slopes is almost impossible to work that way, so we move everything from the uneven edges down to the middle. This allowed us to eliminate the curb & gutters system on each side of the road, to give us an extra two feet in Segment 1 to do the extra-wide sidewalks up to 9 feet.”

He describes Segment 1 as “a great learning curve for the rest of the project, especially with the center-lane pavers. We now cover these during construction with steel plates because they are not intended to handle that heavy amount of daily traffic. To prevent the pavers from settling, we added a geogrid fabric for more stability and to share the load, and it is working quite well.” Jim said, “Segment 2 will begin at the curve at Lovers Lane and the Red Coconut RV Park, where the right-of-way widens from 50 to 65 feet, and that is where we will begin to put in the dedicated bike lanes to the end of the island, separated by a thin safety strip of greenery to smaller 6-foot sidewalks, but since that part of the island has much lower foot-traffic density, that should work fine.”

Not Just Throwing Darts

Brett Messner, the project manager from Tetra Tech Engineers, said, “The Town project is in coordination with Estero Boulevard by Lee County, and this is the key for the system to work. We do a lot of preliminary study before we present the joint outfall streets to Council; this is not just throwing darts at a street map but determining how elevation moves stormwater to outfall locations. The Town just approved the building of the first four outfalls in Segment 2, on Eucalyptus Avenue, Jefferson Court, Hercules Drive, and Bayview Avenue. Town residents voted overwhelmingly to replace its waterlines so it is important to do stormwater together so construction does not disrupt the street more than once. One constraint we do have is to keep pipes no larger than 30 inches because that requires additional Town monitoring.”

As for the 30% design plan, “This will enable us to get out ahead of the project and allows us to do the math,” explains Brett. “We can do public outreach, as we can tell you the plan for each specific street, as well as recommend joint outfall locations for the remainder of the island. We can tell you if your side street needs an underground system or swales or both, and we can present it to the Town as a coordinated project.”

Darin Brown of Chris-Tel Construction explained, “There were a lot of utilities that needed to relocate their lines first before we can begin work, and most of that is now cleared out of the way, so that gives the contractors a lot of ability to move faster in the areas we are in now, plus our crews gained a lot more experience in Segment 1. The first mile of this project is the most challenging one mile I have built in my 23-year career; with Segment 2 right-of-way being larger, travel lanes will be a little bit better.”

Easter Week

Kaye emphasized, “The Lee County Commissioners have yet to approve Segment 2 Estero Boulevard construction but that should come in April, and we will expedite that quickly so work can begin again in May. Crews will work the Easter Week of April 9 to 16, but not on the major aspect of the roadway project. We will clean things up as much as possible, and do jobs along the side of the road, leaving open two lanes of traffic.”

In looking into the future, there will be design work from Strandview Avenue to Albatross Street; Segment 2 center lane drainage installation commences in May; the Town this Summer will submit its monetary request to the State Revolving Loan Fund; the next four Segment 2 outfalls begin in July for Bay Road, Donora Boulevard, Baymar Drive, and Coconut Drive; watermain work continues from Lovers Lane south to the Publix Supermarket; the selection of Segments 3 and 4 outfalls occurs in Summer 2017, with Segment 5 and 6 outfalls to end of the island happening in Summer 2018. “Most of all,” Kaye said with a broad smile, “we are looking forward to getting Segment 1 done!”

For ongoing information or to receive email updates, see www.reFRESHFMBeach.com or contact Cella Molnar & Associates, Inc., at 239-337-1071, 877-496-1076, or email at kmolnar@cella.cc.

 

Gary Mooney