The reFRESH Estero Boulevard and Waterlines Improvement Projects continue, with Segment 1 to be complete near the end of 2016, and Segment 2 just underway.
New water mains and sanitary sewer force main installation are complete in Segment 1 from Crescent Street to Lovers Lane, as is the center drainage system between the Lani Kai Island Resort and DiamondHead Beach Resort & Spa. Florida Power & Light (FPL) and Comcast are working to transfer their services to remove old power poles. Once this is done, Estero Boulevard road crews can build the remaining portion of the center lane drainage system, regrade and rebuild the northbound lanes and sidewalks, and construct the southbound sidewalk. Crews will also address the settling of center lane pavers.
As this segment is just 50 feet wide, it does not have enough right-of-way (ROW) for dedicated bike lanes, meaning bicyclists will share the 10-foot roadway or 8-foot sidewalk. “This is to date the biggest complaint we have from the public,” says projects spokesperson Kaye Molnar. “People would like a dedicated bike lane, but we already jammed so much into this tight corridor. As we proceed south into succeeding segments, the ROW increases from 65 to 80 feet, allowing bike lanes to be part of the remaining plan.”
Segment 2 Begins
Lee County and the Town of Fort Myers Beach are ready to move south along Estero Boulevard with utility improvements. Work is to begin this month to replace water mains and the sanitary sewer force main in Segment 2 between Lovers Lane and Madera Road. FPL and Comcast will relocate poles to the back of the ROW as part of an ongoing plan to maximize the sidewalk width available for pedestrians and bicyclists who choose not to ride in the road. This is done in advance to allow a more efficient completion of all Segment 2 work.
Survey crews are already marking Estero Boulevard ROW lines from Lovers Lane to Bayland Road. This month, workers cleared portions of the ROW that is generally no more than 65 feet wide. Property owners must remove any intrusions such as landscaping or lighting, or crews will.
Estero Boulevard workers will begin installing temporary pavement on the beach side near Washington Avenue to widen the roadway to maintain two lanes of traffic and a pedestrian way most of the time during construction. One-lane flagging, however, is necessary between Lovers Land and Washington Avenue while workers install new water mains. As a result of the temporary widening, daily flagging will not be necessary.
Waterline crews will begin installing water mains on the beach side of Estero Boulevard just south of Lovers Lane and heading south. At the same time, crews will install sanitary sewer force mains on the bay side from Washington Avenue south. Once they near Publix Super Market, they will come back north and complete the sanitary sewer force main between Lovers Lane and Washington Avenue.
Segment 2 roadway improvements are to start in early 2017, with the reconstructed Estero Boulevard from Lovers Lane to Madera Road to include 10-foot travel lanes in each direction as well as an 11-foot center turn lane; 5-foot designated bicycle lanes in each direction; 6-foot sidewalks on each side of the road; and greenspace to separate the roadway from sidewalk. Design plans for trolley stops incorporate travel lane shifts to allow vehicles to pass stopped trolleys and continue on; in these areas there is not a center turn lane.
Segment 2’s wider ROW allows for the bicycle lanes and greenspace to keep Fort Myers Beach a first-class destination for residents, businesses and visitors alike for generations. The two major goals of the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Project are increased safety for all users such as motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians, and improved Estero Boulevard drainage.
In February 2016, crews finished new waterlines along Estero Boulevard from Times Square to Red Coconut RV Park, with TECO Gas installing a line adjacent to the water main in a coordinated project. Lee County Department of Transportation worked with LeeTran to improve trolley stop and crosswalk locations.
The reFRESH Waterlines Replacement Program recently completed not only new waterlines from Times Square to the Red Coconut RV Park, but in the Basin Based Neighborhood off Estero Boulevard, Bay Beach Lane and Laguna Shores. Future phases will replace existing water mains until all on Fort Myers Beach are new.
Estero Boulevard Improvements Project
The reFRESH Estero Boulevard Project involves the reconstruction of the six miles of Estero Boulevard from Crescent Street to Big Carlos Pass, consistent with the vision in the Town of Fort Myers Beach Streetscape Master Plan. It is to be complete in approximate one-mile segments, to allow for construction of one while finalizing the design and permitting of the next. Although the project’s primary focus is not to ease seasonal traffic congestion, improvements will help travelers shift to alternative transportation modes like bicycling, walking or the trolley.
Crews typically work during the daytime between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., though some night and weekend work will occur to complete the project in a timely manner. Motorists should expect changes to traffic patterns with possible intermittent lane closures. The goal of Lee County and the Town of Fort Myers Beach is to minimize interruptions during peak season as much as possible; however construction is year-round.
“Night and Saturday work will be necessary because Mother Nature was against us this summer,” Kaye explains. “We had numerous nighttime lightning storms that halted us, and Hurricanes Hermine and Matthew meant FPL reassigned crews for those emergencies. We explained this to business owners, who said to do whatever is necessary as quickly as possible. We will avoid high profile weekends like we did with Pirate Fest, but the rest of the year until the Holidays seems to be wide open.”
Molnar understands that people have already had enough of the construction, “as it seems like it is going on forever. It was on the drawing board for a decade and talked about for years. When it is complete, neighbors know it will look great and improve property values, but right now everyone is sick of it! There is never a good time to undergo a massive project like this, but we are all in this together, so we need to make it as painless as possible. Once we fully complete Segment 1, and residents and visitors see how beautiful it is, I believe there will be greater patience with the remainder of the projects.”