Estero Blvd. Construction Update

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Segment 2 Nearing Completion

People often use the phrase, “a fork in the road,” to describe a defining moment in life or history. For the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects, however, that axiom may be “a curve in the road!”

When Lee County Assistant County Manager Doug Meurer gave his monthly reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects update to Town Council at its May 9 Management & Planning Session, Vice Mayor Ray Murphy asked when work at the curve near the Red Coconut RV Park would be complete, because it seems like that area has been under construction forever! When Meurer replied the end of June, Murphy stated that once that section was complete, that would be, in the minds of many FMB residents, a significant positive turning point in the ongoing multi-million dollar construction projects to upgrade, install or replace underground utilities, water, sanitary sewer, stormwater and the roadway, among other items.

“I whole-heartedly agree with Vice Mayor Murphy’s assessment,” said Kaye Molnar of Cella Molnar & Associates, spokesperson for the projects. “That curve was the ending part of Segment 1 that began at the base of the Matanzas Pass Bridge in July 2015, and was the start of Segment 2 in March 2017, so there has been some type of work ongoing near there now for almost four years. That is unfortunately the nature of underground work, as you never know what you will discover until you finally get in there, much like surgery, and it is arduous work! On top of that, it is in a narrow 50-foot Right-of-Way, making construction there even harder.”

Two Miles Down; Four to Go

Molnar agreed with Meurer’s estimate that substantial Segment 2 construction, from Lovers Lane to Strandview Avenue, just north of Publix Supermarket, will be complete by the end of June. “There is not much left to do, with some stormdrain work, the southbound travel lane, then the sidewalk. This includes the Town’s waterline projects on its sidestreets. That does not mean, however, you will never see another construction worker in that area, as we still must complete some minor things and punchlist items. Everyone knows that right now, due to rebuilding the southbound lane on the beachside, we are all driving on the brick pavers over the center lane stormwater drain that feels we are bouncing all over a World War II battlefield, so we will need to replace some pavers, especially around the concrete grates, like we had to do once we completed the major work in Segment 1. Once we substantially finish Segment 2, we will be done with two miles of the six-mile project, with four to go!”

Another exciting Segment 2 enhancement will be the five-foot-wide bicycle lanes on each side of the roadway. “The bike lanes will narrow the sidewalks from nine feet to six,” Kaye reported. “There will also be one to two-foot strips of land to separate sidewalks from the bike lanes that will basically begin just past the Red Coconut RV Park curve straight through to the end of the island. We expect the bike lanes to be in place by early July, once we stripe the roadway. While it will be cool to finally have the bike lanes, they will also allow for traveler delineation. Right now, in Segment 1, you have cars and bicycles sharing the roadway in the Sharrow Lanes, while bicyclists and walkers compete for space on sidewalks. From Segment 2 on, cars are on the roadway, bicyclists in the bike lanes, with pedestrians having the sidewalks to themselves!”

Segments 3 & 4

With Segment 2 winding down, Segments 3 & 4 construction continues, from Strandview Avenue to Albatross Street, with crews combining these two segments into one zone. “There are nine outfalls in this area, with five being joint outfalls between the Town and Lee County,” Kaye reported. “Work on these are either complete or well on its way. Dakota Avenue, Lazy Way, Mound Road and Williams Drive/Glenview Manor Drive are all joint outfalls that are in. Madera Road and Dundee Road are Lee County outfalls that are in as well. Aberdeen Avenue is still under construction, as is Driftwood Lane. We are almost finished with Curlew Street as well as with Ibis Street, where we had to run a pipe under the nearby tennis courts, so we could not start that until after Easter. As for Segments 5 & 6 outfalls that will take us to the southern end of Estero Boulevard, we are finalizing those locations now, including property owner discussions.”

estero blvd, construction update, fort myers beach
Estero Blvd at Lovers Lane looking south. Completion of Segment 2 construction from Lovers Lane to near Publix is expected by the end of June. Photo by Gary Mooney.

Perhaps the most annoying aspect of the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects is the concrete wall barrier necessary to install the center lane stormwater drainage system. “Currently the concrete wall is up from Gulfview Avenue to Bayland Road,” said Kaye. “It has only been there a short time, so unfortunately that means it will remain there for most of the rest of the summer. We do have an opening at Sanders Drive near the Publix Supermarket for vehicles to turn around as well as for a pedestrian crossing, but everyone else will need to take a right onto Estero Boulevard until you reach an opening to make a U-turn. The concrete wall is sadly a necessary safety feature, not only for the construction crews but the general public, as the center stormdrain installation can mean as much as a three-foot difference in elevation between the two sides of the roadway.”

Another challenging section in Segment 3 is the last of the 50-foot Right-of-Way work zones on the island, from Bayland Road to Lazy Way. “Construction up to that area basically follows the same blueprint,” Kaye related. “We do the northbound sidewalk and roadway, then the center lane drainage system, then the southbound lane and sidewalk, but from Bayland Road to Lazy Way, there is not enough room for the center lane drainage project to go down the middle of the roadway, so the drainage pipe is closer to the beachside, with smaller slotted pipes that run between the two lanes that carry water over to the large 30-inch stormwater pipe, meaning that you will not see any of the brick pavers in this stretch. Also, there is no landscaping stretch here, so we are working with the United States Postal Service for mailbox replacement, with some of those possibly being on sidestreets. Finally, now that we are firmly in the offseason with much lighter traffic, our hope is we can continue to work here without any one-lane flagging traffic control.”

Holidays & Rainy Days

Another traffic concern involves the upcoming summer holiday weekends. “The plan right now is that the crews will be off for all three days of this Memorial Day Holiday,” Kaye offered. “We are still unsure about what to do for the Fourth of July, as that falls on a Thursday, so we don’t know if our construction workers will be off for those four days, or if they will do jobs on that Friday and Saturday that will not impact traffic. A lot will depend on the weather as we get closer to the Fourth, as we want to get as much work done as we can in good weather, and that is why we now work most Saturdays.”

She does not, however, foresee much evening work over the next several months. “We now have roughly 13 hours of daylight each day, and as we are entering the hottest months of the year, crews like to work earlier in the morning, when temperatures are at their coolest, so you will see most of the activity begin to wind down and the clean-up start around 5 p.m. An exception occurs when paving, as workers like to keep going with that until they run out of asphalt. We can continue uninterrupted in Segment 3 now that most of the outfalls are complete. Town and Lee County crews are really working excellently together now, getting projects done in a timely manner. The big unknown now is our summer rainfall, as lately we are in a dry stretch, but early May was wet.”

With Segment 2 nearing its completion, work on Segments 3 & 4 well underway, and plans for Segments 5 & 6 on the drawing board, Lee County officials feel that they are on track to be done by their projected December 2021 date. With that in mind, Kaye contemplated which of the five phases of the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects will reach the south end of the island first: utilities like Century Link & Comcast, water, stormwater, sanitary sewers, or the roadway replacement! “That is tough,” she said with a laugh! “Components vary and you have to make adjustments, but if I had to pick a horse and place a bet, I would wager on either the sanitary sewer forcemains or the watermains!”

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

 

By Gary Mooney
gary@fortmyersbeach.news