The Island Sand Paper provides a monthly update on the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects, the largest facelift on Fort Myers Beach during its long and colorful history. Generally, we list what construction is going on, from where to where, but you pretty much either need a map in your head where your brain should be, or one directly in front of you for all that dry information to make sense. To put personality into the process, we asked Kaye Molnar, spokesperson for the projects from Cella Molnar & Associates, six questions each of the last two weeks, to try to make sense of it all.
In our May 5 edition, Kaye answered queries about the final stages of Segment 1 construction, upcoming Segment 2 funding and information, future Town decisions, and joint outfall installation updates; to read these Click Here.
Q7: Will all of Segment 2 require the concrete wall, due to elevation differences from the Bay to Beach side? If so, where will it go first?
The short answer is, unfortunately, yes, we will need the concrete wall because the difference in elevation from the Bay to the Beach side can be a much as 18 inches, so it is an unavoidable and necessary safety component. The million-dollar question is where will it go up first, and the likeliest answer is by whichever of the initial four Segment 2 joint outfalls come under construction first, and that depends on which receive their permitting first. Permitting is completely out of our control so we don’t know if we will get the paperwork one at a time, all at the same time or some combination of those four.
This is not set in stone, however, as we could do some small things like installing the conduits if the permits take longer than we anticipate, but we cannot get very far down the road without the center lane storm drainage system, and that requires the outfalls. By the way, in a point of interest, we will do Segment 2 backwards from Segment 1, by first doing the southbound lane, then the center, and finally the northbound lane.
Q8: What special construction requirements are necessary for the Red Coconut RV Park section? Are there any other remaining sections with that narrow of a Right-of-Way for the balance of the island?
The Red Coconut Right-of-Way widens from 50 to 65 feet, but not evenly. We simply won’t know until we get in there if we can do the work utilizing construction barrels and similar things to keep open two lanes of traffic. We may have to narrow it to alternating one-lane traffic, however, particularly around the curve there, if it becomes a safety concern, as we always err on the side of caution.
There is one small section in Segment 3, from Avenida Pescadora to roughly Sterling Avenue, that has a 50-foot Right-of-Way for approximately 1,800 feet, so we are not quite done with those narrow areas.
Q9: How long will Lee County need the former Seafarer’s property for a construction staging area before the projects move too far down Estero Boulevard for that to be practical?
There really are no other comparable areas like Seafarer’s to store construction materials and especially large pieces of equipment for the rest of the beach until you reach the south end of the island. I realize the further away the construction zone moves, that seems to become impractical, but then the only spots available to leave things is in the Right-of-Way along the route, and people hate that, so it becomes the same type of problem.
Now that we are out of season, it shouldn’t be too bad for the materials to move from Seafarer’s to the construction zone. I think we are clearly coming to the end of the time we will use that site, but I don’t know when that will be, nor what the Lee County Board of Commissioners will ultimately do with the property once we are done with it. I certainly understand it is unsightly, and not an ideal first impression for the beach when you come over the Matanzas Pass Bridge.
Q10: What is your most frequently asked question?
It’s odd because there really is no single Frequently Asked Question, except of course, ‘When are you going to be done!’ Questions come in spurts as we move down the road, like about the center drainage system, and we certainly receive questions whenever we put up the concrete wall. The type of question really depends on what is going on at the time and where. We try to put information out all the time, to answer questions before anyone even asks, but as we move down the boulevard, the same questions come back up over and again.
Q11: What has been your biggest surprise BAD so far with the projects?
I knew the wall would be bad! This was especially true when it was up from Chapel Street to Lovers Lane, as it cut off access to Town Hall, the Bay Oaks Recreation Center, Beach Elementary School and the Fort Myers Beach Public Library, as those are all high-profile island destinations. I feel very bad for the folks that were in the areas where the water line project started, then immediately came the Estero Boulevard construction, so those few businesses got stuck in a zone where construction lasted for quite a long time. I am happy to see they endured and now can reap the benefits of the projects that are done. I am a small business owner myself, so I feel for those folks.
Q12: Let’s end positive! What has been your biggest surprise GOOD so far?
The good has always been the reaction that people experience when I see the light go on with someone, when they understand what we are doing, and also having people come back that you know struggled through the construction and they say, ‘This is the best thing ever!’ There comes a moment when most people can see the final project and realize how good this is for the entire community. I think people are finally excited about the finished product and now know there will be a lot of good that will come from this, including economic development, a better road, improved utilities, far less flooding and increased property values. In addition to this, the Estero improvement will spur people to fix up their property to match ours, to make this a better community!
In conclusion, Kaye reminds everyone that once the final paving for Segment 1 is complete on Tuesday, May 9, the Estero Boulevard speed limit is 25 miles-per-hour. “When you finally get to drive on this nice new smooth drivable surface, suppress the need to motor faster. Obey the posted speed limit, and please behave yourself. We want people to feel safe using Estero Boulevard. And finally, while we are certainly not yet in the rainy season, every time it rains, the drainage so far is draining!”