Council Examines Downtown Traffic Proposal

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The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council, as part of its recent Strategic Planning Sessions, identified Quality of Life and Transportation as core items, with Mayor Dennis Boback assigned Transportation. As a result, he made two proposals at a special Management & Planning Session before roughly 10 people on Tuesday morning, August 22.

Boback examined eliminating the northbound left turn from Estero Boulevard onto Fifth Street near Times Square, making Fifth Street’s two lanes one way northbound from Estero Boulevard to Old San Carlos Boulevard, and having southbound North Estero Boulevard be a left-turn only onto Old San Carlos Boulevard. This would route all through Estero Boulevard traffic under the Matanzas Pass Bridge onto Crescent Street, to either exit the island via Fifth Street or turn left onto Estero Boulevard to proceed south. He recommended as well opening Center Street from the Matanzas Pass Bridge to Old San Carlos Boulevard. “If you open Center Street, you will move a lot of congestion off Fifth Street, but the biggest drawback may be a bottleneck on Crescent,” he admitted.

“I would like to eliminate all left turns on Estero Boulevard,” said Council Member Bruce Butcher. “I would rather not have a center lane, but that ship sailed.” He advocated a different flow pattern that includes keeping Fifth Street open to Estero Boulevard. “The proposed plan will have people sitting a long time on Crescent Street, trying to turn south (left) onto Estero Boulevard.”

Council Member Joanne Shamp said any changes should “allow for a better flow and not adversely affect any resident, visitor or business. No one likes to talk about creating a traffic circle, but we are trying to create a traffic circle without creating a traffic circle, and that is the elephant in the room!”

“Not one of us is a traffic engineer, so this is just talk,” added Vice Mayor Tracey Gore. “Let’s wait until after the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) presentation this fall. I would really like to have a traffic engineer work on this; it would be like me doing a surgery, saying ‘I think you want to have the heart pumping, but I don’t know because I am not a surgeon.’”

“Just in case you become one,” Cereceda added amusingly, “the correct answer is ‘Yes!’”

Sketch depicting Mayor Dennis Boback’s traffic suggestions: no left turn northbound from Estero Blvd onto Fifth St (North Estero) and one way northbound traffic on Fifth Street. No action was taken.

Not Afraid of Traffic Circles

“Most of us don’t like the traffic light at the base of the bridge,” said Shamp. “Crescent Street is a valuable artery…I live nowhere near there and that street is crucial to my mobility. Comprehensive signage is another thing we need, so we get your butt off the road and your car parked. I didn’t like traffic circles, but I just completed a long trip where we used many, and the designs and functionality are fabulous, so I am not afraid of the traffic circle conversation, as I don’t feel this proposal is the solution; we need something more comprehensive.”

“I agree with Joanne,” emphasized Cereceda, “and I agree with you, Tracey – I hope someone is writing this down because this is a stellar day! There is no single topic more discussed, and in every proposal the #1 solution is a roundabout, but the minute we try to do something, the problem-makers say, ‘I live in Timbuktu and we took out all the traffic circles,’ and the roundabout goes away. There is nothing fast about a roundabout, but there is flow and that is the whole trick; to keep traffic moving. Don’t put it off because of pressure and, believe me, there will be pressure, because anyone who had a bad roundabout experience will complain. We on past Councils lacked the political will to actually do something, rather than just talking about it.”

Gore asked again to “let traffic engineers do their job. While I do not like roundabouts, I didn’t like Oysters Rockefeller until I had them at SOB and now I love them, so I can change my mind, but I need a professional person to give us options.” Butcher asked, “How many times has the Town done this before — ten?” “2004, 2006, 2009, 2013,” said Gore, with Cereceda adding, “and further back than that. It is time to do something! It could have happened a long time ago with the political will of 3 out of 5 people.” “Maybe this Council will be different,” said Gore. “Then it will be the first one,” concluded Cereceda! “Every single person who ever sat up here talks about fixing this, and no one has yet done anything – including me! The moment is now!”

With that, Boback concluded that the consensus of Council is to wait until after the FDOT presentation and he adjourned the session at 10:08 a.m.

 

Gary Mooney