While rumors swirled Monday of a possible bridge closure and checkpoint, triggered by a lane closure early Monday on San Carlos Blvd, the Town of Fort Myers Beach was not planning on any bridge closure.
“We are not planning to close the bridge,” said Town Manager Roger Hernstadt. Monday afternoon. “It’s not on our list.”
“Let me clarify, it’s not on the bottom of our list, it’s not on the list at all,” he said.
The bridges that connect Fort Myers Beach to the rest of Lee County are not managed by the Town of Fort Myers Beach in any case. The north Matanzas Pass Bridge is managed by the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) and the south bridge, Big Carlos Pass Bridge, is managed by Lee County DOT, which also manages Estero Blvd between the two bridges. Any bridge closure is a multi-jurisdictional decision, often triggered by a request from the Town, such as for parades.
At a recent special meeting of Town Council, Council member Joanne Shamp discussed steps she would like to see the town take to protect town residents during the COVID-19 pandemic and one of her suggestions was closing the bridges to town residents only, utilizing Hurricane Re-Entry Passes. The other four council members were not in favor of that suggestion and it was dropped.
For future reference and with hurricane season just a few months away, here’s an explanation of Re-Entry Passes. Town residents are asked each year to obtain a Hurricane Re-entry Pass prior to hurricane season which, in case of an evacuation, can be used to re-enter the island if entry is limited to town residents and business owners only. The passes are usually available at Town Hall, with proof of residency or proof of ownership of a beach business, but as of today, Town Hall is closed and staff is available by phone or email.
Town staff explained to the Sand Paper today that any purple (resident) or yellow (business) Hurricane Re-entry Pass, regardless of the dates on that pass, is valid. For those who don’t have one of those passes, any identification, tax or utility bill showing a beach address would suffice, in the event a pass was needed. To reiterate, no pass is needed now. The town is NOT planning to limit bridge access.
This is a good time to be sure you are signed up for CODE RED, an Emergency Notification System used by the town to notify residents and businesses via phone, text and/or email of local emergencies.