reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects continue, with various work on-going in all three segments, and major Segment 2 construction to soon begin.
“In Segment 1, from the Matanzas Pass Bridge to the Red Coconut RV Park, we are down to punch list items and brick paver replacement,” said Kaye Molnar, spokesperson for the projects from Cella Molnar & Associates. “Redoing the center lane pavers is frustrating for the crews, community and management team. We are working with the manufacturer to solve the problems that make them settle or crack. Fortunately, the manufacturer pays for the replacements, with the work built into the contract, so there is not a great deal of extra cost to taxpayers, with the manufacturer and engineers and construction team all working on solutions. As we’ve said since the beginning, reFRESH Estero Boulevard is a complicated project, and we concentrate on the positives, like the drainage that works perfectly.”
Other than the pavers, Segment 1 is down to completing punch list items, with Lee County and Town officials addressing things like sidewalks and underground conduits. “This is typical at the end of any construction project,” Kaye explains, “be it roadwork or a new house or anything like that.”
One recent completion are roadway markings, including “sharrows,” and Kaye cautions motorists to be aware of these in Segment 1. “’Sharrows’ mean bicyclists can either share the nine-foot-wide sidewalks with pedestrians, or the north or south lanes on Estero Boulevard with motorists,” she said. “I think bicyclists understand the concept, but we want motorists to know this, too, as we have had a few telephone calls about this. If bicyclists don’t feel safe in the road, they can ride on the sidewalk. If they use the road, however, and you are driving behind a bicyclist, you must remain there and cannot pass them unless you can safely do so using the left-turn lane. This will be immaterial for the remainder of reFRESH Estero, as from the Red Coconut south there will be five-foot dedicated bike lines on each side of the new roadway.”
Another recent Segment 1 improvement is moving LeeTran trolley passenger signs to new locations at the trolley pull-offs, that maintain two-way traffic while eliminating vehicles from backing up behind trolleys as they load and unload passengers. “We had to shift many of these a bit, to match up with the new stops and crosswalks,” Kaye said. “The problem is that riders still wait by the old signs, but now they match up. Unfortunately, many of the benches are gone, but this is only temporary until we find new locations near stores and commercial areas. If there is an old concrete bench pad near you, crews will remove it. People tell us the trolley pull-offs are one of the best things about the project!”
As for Segment 2, preparation for major construction from Lovers Lane to Voorhis Street continues, with crews sealing and widening the road to maintain two lanes of traffic once work is underway. “There is still one power pole we need to relocate near the Red Coconut,” Kaye said, “Florida Power & Light will do that before we proceed. A crucial element is to maintain access for the Fire Station. We had good meetings with the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District, to know and attain their requirements, as well as explaining what we need, so we will keep either Voorhis or Donora Boulevard open during construction; when one is done, we will flip it up to work on the other.”
Major roadway construction will start on the bay side on the northbound lane, then move to the center, and finally the southbound lane nearest the beach, with the first area to be near the Red Coconut, including stormwater drains for outfalls. “Sadly,” Kaye empathizes, “because of the significant drop in elevation again between lanes, this unfortunately means the return of the dreaded concrete wall in the near future, most likely from Lovers Lane to Voorhis Street!”
Initial Segment 3 construction involves sewer force main work on the bay side, “where we left off in Segment 2, at Publix Supermarket,” Kaye explains, “clearing the right-of-way from Dakota Avenue as well as down the beach side. Fortunately, this is more residential, so we are not encountering many encroachments, with most involving landscaping.”
As to items the Town of Fort Myers Beach Council may address in August, “we may request their permission to begin the first four Segment 2 joint stormwater outfalls,” Kaye offered, “for Bayview Avenue, Eucalyptus Court, Hercules Drive and Jefferson Street, but we must first receive the construction permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, and we may possibly discuss the next four. We submitted our request to the Corps over seven months ago, so it is disappointing we are still waiting, so that is out of our hands.” This includes building the concrete baffle boxes that take roughly 12 weeks.
“The positive is the contractor is ready,” she adds, “so as soon as we receive permits, they will immediately build out the water and storm drains to Estero Boulevard, doing first the water main, then the storm drain, to keep the water main live. We just completed connecting side streets from Donora Boulevard to Connecticut Street to the water main on Estero Boulevard and that went great, with no traffic or related issues.”
Finally, Kaye again implored everyone, “Please be patient! I know it seems like this has already gone on beyond the ridiculous level, but Lee County and the Town keep pushing to make sure the work is acceptable to the residents. Our foreseeable goal remains to complete another significant stretch, down to between Donora Boulevard to Jefferson Street, before seasonal visitors return for the Winter, so we are making progress.”