Final 2 Segments Begin Soon
After more than five years of continuous construction on various sections of Estero Boulevard in Fort Myers Beach, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel for the reFRESH Fort Myers Beach Projects, and this time that light is not another train!
“At their June 16 meeting, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners approved the contract with Chris-Tel Construction for Segments 5 & 6, the final two at the southern portion of Fort Myers Beach,” explained Kaye Molnar of Cella Molnar & Associates, the spokesperson for both the Lee County Estero Boulevard and Town of Fort Myers Beach Waterlines projects. “The amount was for $18,912,725 and we estimate that primary construction for Estero Blvd. Segments 5 & 6 (Albatross St. to Big Carlos Pass Bridge) will begin this fall, to replace portions of the sanitary sewer force mains and complete the Estero Boulevard improvements. We have sent right-of-way letters to every homeowner in that stretch alerting them that they need to remove any obstructions by July 31. There is already some early work underway, principally to connect drainage structures to the south end of the island so that dewatering continues as we move along.”
The town’s waterlines project is divided into four phases and is already well into Phase 4 from Albatross St. to the end of the island. The waterlines project replaces waterlines along Estero Blvd, and will eventually replace all waterlines in Fort Myers Beach. The project also includes stormwater drainage on some streets. Details and progress can be found online at refreshfmbeach.com
More Traditional Crown
“The main difference residents and visitors will notice about Segments 5 and 6 as opposed to the first four reconstructed roadway segments is that these two sectors will feature the more traditional crown in the center of the road that slopes stormwater down to drains at the curbs and gutters,” Molnar explained, “as opposed to the inverted crown drainage that brings water to the center lane storm drain with brick pavers up to this point. The primary Segment 5 & 6 drains will be on the bay side, with lateral tie-ins from beach side drains to connect to the main pipe. We can use the traditional crown style in Segments 5 & 6 because right-of-way there is from 80 to 100 feet wide rather than the earlier segments where the 50-foot right-of-way made the inversion method necessary; it really is that simple!”
Estero Boulevard reconstruction from Albatross Street to the island’s south end will feature 10-foot travel lanes in each direction as well as an 11-foot center turn lane; an 8-foot concrete sidewalk on the beach side and a 6- to 8-foot varying sidewalk on the bay side; 5-foot bicycle lanes in each direction; and a greenspace buffer between the roadway and the adjacent sidewalks. There will be greenspace as well from 5.5 to 7.5-feet from the back of the sidewalk to the right-of-way line. These segments feature four trolley stops, with bayside locations at Santini Marina Plaza and North of Estrellita Drive, and beachside at the Pointe Estero Beach Resort and Creciente Condominiums. Crews will rebuild the northbound right-turn lanes at the Santini Marina Plaza and Bay Beach Lane entrances at their existing locations.
She cautioned, “There may be some necessary safety enhancements in Segments 5 & 6 that are not in other sectors of the project. Due to the wider sidewalks and larger greenspaces, there may be some significant elevation changes between the roadway buffers and adjacent low-lying property. As such, we may have to construct a retaining wall at the right-of-way line with pedestrian safety handrails at the top. There may be safety handrails as well where drainage structures at the rear of the sidewalks collect stormwater. If you do not want handrails, though, we think we have a better alternative that will function just as well and look better! We are contacting the adjacent property owners to see if they will agree to a Lee County sloping easement. You can avoid that concrete wall, handrail and significant dropoff and, in my opinion, provide a much softer and better look to your yard without any significant drawbacks or property loss.”
South = Wide ROW
Molnar reported that the wider right-of-ways at the south end of the island “look really great to the construction crews, so we think the public will notice that these final two segments will go by quick compared to the beginning of the projects. One thing alone that will make progress faster is because we will not need to inlay the brick pavers, as well as replacing them when roadway lane shifts put heavy traffic on them that require frequent replacement.”
Another reason she believes that the final two segments will seem to go faster is the way the projects began several years ago. “Segment 1 was from the base of the Matanzas Pass Bridge to Lovers Lane, right in the heart of the island’s business district in an area that had a tight 50-foot right-of-way. That made everything seem so tough, with some of the most experienced members of our construction crews saying time and again that one-mile stretch was the toughest mile of their entire careers! The further we move south down the island, the wider the right-of-way tends to be, without as many of the underground conflicts that we found in the downtown area.”
Segments 3 & 4 Progress
Molnar estimated that primary construction for Segments 3 & 4 (Strandview Avenue to Albatross Street) will be complete this fall, as the multi-million dollar reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects continue to upgrade, install or replace underground utilities, waterlines, sanitary sewer, stormwater drainage, and then the roadway and sidewalks. “Work is really moving along quite quickly now because the Town’s waterline replacement program is so far ahead of the other crews. We have almost all the waterlines and pipes installed down to the south end of the island, so that allows the work crews to go full speed ahead through Segments 3 & 4, though there are still some pipes going in, with drainage work and the installation of pipes down by the curve near the Church of The Ascension to Flamingo Street.”
“The construction crews have all the 10 and 16-inch water mains in to the end of the island,” Molnar related. “We are pressure-testing and providing chlorination to these, and are now waiting on the Florida Environmental Protection Agency for their approval, so we are working with the contractor to gather all the data so that we can to make the large and small connections in cooperation through the Town’s Water Department. We will ultimately hook these people up to the system and I suspect that will happen pretty quickly sometime over the summer.”
There is still some water main work to be done on Lenell Road, Redfish and Tarpon Roads but most of the system is in place, Molnar added. “I anticipate that the Town’s waterline project will be complete by the end of 2020. One of the few good things to come out of the coronavirus and its corresponding shutdowns is that traffic became so low that it was relatively easy to lay the 12-inch pipe across Lenell, allowing us to really speed up our work there. Fortunately, our crews have not encountered any coronavirus health issues, as they practice social distancing, employ a great deal of handwashing and there is not a great deal of tool sharing, as most of the work involves heavy equipment, with one operator dedicated to each piece.”
For assistance, information, or email updates, including an online construction zone map, see refreshfmbeach.com. To communicate directly with Molnar, contact her at Cella Molnar & Associates, Inc., at 239-337-1071, 877-496-1076, or email@example.com.
Molnar said she still feels good that the principal reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects will be substantially complete by the end of 2021! “There are tough sections yet to get through, like the Church of The Ascension curve, the stretch from Lazy Way to Flamingo Street, and drainage is always tricky, but not having to lay the brick pavers in Segments 5 and 6 should allow work to go faster as well. We are also about to put on more crews, and that always helps. I am happy to report, that in terms of the total six-mile long project, we are now officially past the halfway point, as that was a long time in coming! There is one final thing I would like to say – I know the construction was a great strain to the businesses and property owners in Segments 1 and 2, but May’s record-setting rains prove that the drainage in those areas works exceptionally well!”