“Segment 1 of the reFRESH Estero Boulevard drainage passed with flying colors,” enthuses Kaye Molnar, spokesperson for the projects from Cella Molnar & Associates. “The rain we received last week, particularly on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 6 & 7, was like a hurricane rain without the hurricane; in fact, Fort Myers Beach totals exceeded those from Hurricane Wilma in 2005, yet the drainage in the first mile segment worked flawlessly. All you had to do was drive from Segment 1 into Segment 2 that begins by the Red Coconut RV Park to see the difference, from almost completely dry to standing flooded water.”
Kaye relates that the remaining Segment 1 work, from the Matanzas Pass Bridge to roughly the Red Coconut, “is down to punch list items. The crews are laying sod behind sidewalks and regrading driveways to match the new roadway elevation. We have tried for roughly one week to complete nighttime striping, including the center lane turn arrows and the bike/roadway ‘sharrows,’ but we can’t lay down that thermoplastic in the rain, and we don’t want to do it during the day, to avoid shutting down lanes, so we ask for your patience. We are repairing the last few ‘birdbaths’ – the areas, as we call them, like by Avenue C, where we require a bit of additional paving to eliminate those last few remaining low spots. If you see anything near your home or business you think we did not complete, contact us soon as we are now at that point, like in a marriage ceremony, where you need to ‘speak now or forever hold your peace!’”
There are still issues with the brick pavers, she reports, “that continue to require some replacement. We have the manufacturer in this week to take a personal look, but fortunately this has no adverse effect on the drainage. Also, we put down sod, but are receiving complaints that it is already dead; nobody believes me when I say that all it needs is to get soggy and wet to spring to life, but that is the truth.”
While major roadway work has yet to begin on Segment 2 from Lovers Lane to Strandview Avenue, traffic shifted from the southbound to center lane from the Red Coconut to Donora Boulevard to clear the Right-of-Way on the beach side. “We discovered an old water line,” explains Kaye. “So far it is a dead line, but it could be attached to something live, so we have to be careful we do not just cut it.” Conversely, northbound traffic from Hercules Drive to Strandview shifted to the center lane for temporary paving, as potholes formed from all the recent rain.
Waterline work in Segment 2 continues as well. “Workers are installing the water main on the beach side, as well as making connections to bay side streets, from Lovers Lane to Madera Road,” relates Kaye. “We are connecting individual water service to the new water main on both sides of the street from the Red Coconut to Mid Island Drive, with traffic shifting from the southbound to center lane from Gulfview Avenue to Madera for beach side water mains.”
Kaye expects major Segment 2 roadway work to begin in July. “We will begin on the bay side, starting at Lovers Lane to Madera. Right now, we are coordinating with the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District to ensure their emergency personnel and equipment can navigate swiftly and safely through that area, as we realize the public’s health and safety comes before anything, so we are working out those logistics to allow them to maintain rapid response times. We had bid openings earlier this week and will bring those to Town Council at its meeting on Monday, June 19, for their approval. We are still waiting on the Segment 2 outfall permits, but until then, we can build the waterline and put in the sanitary sewer, but cannot take it all the way out to the bay. While that is happening, we will also construct the concrete baffle boxes for the outfalls, but cannot install them until we receive the permitting.”
A Real Eye-Opener
One element of the project that is attracting a lot of attention is the significant elevation of the road near the Red Coconut: “That shows you how much we had to lower Estero Boulevard to lay the center lane drainage,” offers Kaye. “That is turning into a real eye-opener to a lot of people!” As to the recent Right-of-Way clearing being conducted by the Red Coconut itself, Kaye said, “They have been totally co-operative and a pleasure to work with. They are discovering that many of their concrete slabs go down much deeper than anyone previously imagined or thought.”
As for the upcoming Fourth of July Holiday Weekend that may be extra-long this year as the Fourth falls on a Tuesday, Kaye said, “We do not have the final construction schedule yet for those days, but there will be no work on Sunday the 2nd or Tuesday the 4th. Any work that does occur on the other two days will be minimal, outside of the active lanes, and will not impact traffic.” She reports that initial work on Segment 3 is actually underway, from Strandview to Dakota Avenue, including the clearing of the Right-of-Way and some underground directional drilling as part of the sanitary sewer force main installation. Florida Power & Light and Comcast are almost done with their work on the entire island, so they will no longer be out working at night.
“Our foreseeable goal,” admits Kaye, “is to complete another 2,100-foot stretch of Estero Boulevard before seasonal visitors start to return for the winter, from Lovers Lane to Washington Avenue or Jefferson Street; that would be frosting on the cake!”