For the past four years, Fort Myers Beach residents, seasonals and visitors have experienced various levels of frustration over ongoing construction from the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects. While rebuilding Estero Boulevard is the most visible component, however, the key word in that opening sentence is “Projects,” as there are five separate ones in the entire plan. In addition to roadway replacement, crews are installing the center lane stormwater line, relocating underground utilities and replacing sewer force mains and waterlines.
While Lee County funds the majority of the work, the Town of Fort Myers Beach is paying for the waterline system. “The Town actually began replacing waterlines in 2013,” said Kaye Molnar of Cella Molnar & Associates, spokesperson for the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects. “This was when it did extensive work on the north end of the island. With the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects underway, they will continue this all the way to the south end of the beach, eventually replacing all Town waterlines.”
Kaye explained that the Town has its own waterline contractor, separate from the Lee County team for reFRESH Estero Boulevard. “Mitchell & Stark coordinates that for the Town, along with employing their own work crews. They, however, coordinate quite closely with David Douglas & Associates and Tetra Tech that Lee County uses, especially when it comes to joint outfall installations.”
State Loan Program
While the Town finances and pays for the waterline project, there is not yet a final cost figure. “Waterline work is in four Phases,” stated Kaye. “This is slightly different from the remainder of the reFRESH Estero Boulevard work that is in 6 Segments, with those two distinctions causing some confusion. The Town is done with Waterline Phase 1 & Phase 2, with work continuing on Phase 3 that is in conjunction with Lee County’s Segments 3 & 4 from Strandview Avenue to Albatross Street. Phase 4 will go from Albatross Street to the island’s south end, but we are still in the planning stage, so until that estimate comes in, bids go out, and Town Council approves, we won’t know the official final amount. The Town funds the majority of this work through the State Revolving Fund (SRF) Loan Program through the State of Florida.”
To date, the Town, through the SRF Loan Program, funded Waterline Phase 1 for Estero Boulevard for $4.5 million; Phase 2 for Estero Boulevard and its Joint Outfalls at $12.7 million; Phase 3 for Estero Boulevard at $11.3 million, with Phase 3 Joint Outfalls at an additional $5.8 million; with the Town receiving $500,000 in State Grants to assist with Phase 2 & 3 Joint Outfalls. Since instituting the waterline program study in August 2016, the Town instituted increased water rates, with 7% adjustments in Fiscal Year 2018 and 2019 to replenish the water operating reserve and maintain net revenues for debt service coverage. The study recommended 6% rate increases for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021 to maintain its operating fund balances and debt service coverage. Rate increases go before Town Council each August for approval.
Currently, Phase 3 crews are installing water mains on both sides of Estero Boulevard as well as sidestreet connections from Lazy Way to Albatross Street, with north and southbound traffic shifted to the bay side for water main installation on the beach side. Workers are milling the asphalt in the closed beachside lane, then will install dewatering pipes, with ramps over those at beachside driveways. Water main installation requires pumps to remove water from the trench and, unfortunately, as the pumps are noisy, must run 24-hours-a-day. The contractor makes every effort to place pumps in areas that are the least intrusive to neighbors, but construction determines those locations, with pumps moving as the pipe installation progresses. Crews will soon drill waterlines under Estero Boulevard at Aberdeen and Lanark Avenues, so motorists may experience momentary delays and temporary flagging while crews move the materials and equipment.
Town contractors are installing new water main and storm drainage on the following sidestreets: Aberdeen Avenue; Dakota Avenue; Driftwood Lane; Dundee Road; Lauder Street; Lazy Way; Madera Road; Mound Road; Palmetto Street; and Williams Drive/Glenview Manor Drive. On Aberdeen Avenue, Dundee Road, and Lauder Street, crews will continue storm drainage installation on Lauder and begin work on Aberdeen. Right-of-way restoration continues on Dakota Avenue, Easy Street, Lazy Way, Lewis Street and Palmetto Street. For Driftwood Lane, Madera Road, and Mound Road, right-of-way and road restoration will be complete after Lee County installs the storm drain outfall. Right-of-way restoration is ongoing for Glenview Manor and Williams Drives only from Estero Boulevard to Randy Lane.
Kaye estimated that Phase 3 work to Albatross Street will be complete by May 2020, on the same timeline as reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects Segments 3 & 4, with Phase 4 to be done with the rest of reFRESH Estero Boulevard in December 2021.
Tier One Sidestreets
The Town will eventually do significant work on the Tier One sidestreets that historically receive significant flooding. When asked if this is part of the waterline project, Kaye answered, “Yes and no! When all the outfalls are in place, including those yet to be done in Phase 4, and the center stormwater lane is complete, the Town will move ahead with its Tier One sidestreets that flood the most. The SRF Loan Program will pay for this as well, with Council determining which sidestreets to proceed with first.”
Tier One sidestreets include Andre Mar Drive, Bayland Road, Estrellita Drive, Fairview Boulevard, Gulfview Avenue, Lovers Lane, Madison Court, Mandalay Road, Mid-Island Drive, portions of Shell Mound Boulevard, and Williams Drive beyond the joint outfall. The Town identified Crescent Street and First Street as Tier One streets, but already included those in the North Estero Side Street Project.
For assistance, information or email updates, see www.reFRESHFMBeach.com or contact Cella Molnar & Associates, Inc., at 239-337-1071, 877-496-1076, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Gary Mooney