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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Moser Column: Estero Boulevard to get a long-awaited makeover

Dan Moser
Dan Moser's column this week focuses on the improvements coming on Estero Blvd. in Fort Myers Beach and the improvements needed on San Carlos Blvd. for the entire corridor to be bike/ped/transit-friendly.
 
Florida Weekly Outdoor Section, May 14, 2014

Can it really be true? After decades of hopes being dashed by design and funding disagreements between the Town of Fort Myers Beach and Lee County, work to rebuild Estero Boulevard — including many improvements to benefit pedestrians and cyclists — appears ready to move forward.
 Trolley pull-offs and better stormwater management are also a welcome part of the plan.

The design isn’t all that everyone is happy with, primarily because there’s not enough public right of way available in some segments, specifically the busy area from Times Square to the Red Coconut curve. But creativity, forward-thinking and compromise appear to have made the difference in finally reaching agreement on a design concept that’s feasible, both in terms of important features and cost. There are still some hurdles to overcome because from here it’s all about the details as engineering work moves towards the final stages.

Looking north from Old San Carlos Blvd.; there’s even more to squeeze in south of the town’s section of Estero Boulevard.
Looking north from Old San Carlos Blvd.; there’s even more to squeeze in south of the town’s section of Estero Boulevard. 
Having been involved in the public process for the initial Estero Boulevard plan as part of its original Comprehensive Plan when the town first incorporated in the mid-’90s, I’m pleased that the focus on pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users remains the top priority in this current design, just as it was in the beginning. With as little as 50 feet of right of way available in the most congested areas, being able to accommodate all users is no small achievement. But by using roadway markings such as “sharrows” to indicate it’s a true mixed use travel lane as well as drainage and water management techniques and products that didn’t exist just a few years ago, Lee DOT, its consultants, town officials and interested citizens have developed a workable solution. Although they won’t be able to squeeze bike lanes in those narrow segments without losing the middle turn lane — a change that would create problems for emergency vehicles and left-turning vehicles in that congested business district, thereby dooming such a plan — the agreed-upon configuration is the best option, in my opinion.

Still to be decided, however, is what’s going to be done right at the foot of the Matanzas Pass Bridge. The roadway up to near the existing traffic signal belongs to FDOT, which is currently studying the situation. How the very valuable adjacent private property will end up being developed is another unknown, although it’s sure to have a significant impact on the final plan. A roundabout and pedestrian overpass from the private property to the beach are a couple of elements that have been talked about for years but only time will tell what will finally come about.

San Carlos Boulevard on the other side of the bridge is also in need of reconfiguration in order to make it more bike/ped-friendly, especially if the proposed mega-development on Main Street comes to pass. Further north, on the mainland side of Little Carlos Island, the mish-mosh of obnoxious roadway markings that have been adjusted, attempted to be erased and re-painted, as well as flex-stakes that have been through the same tweaking process over the years, is about as ugly as it gets and isn’t exactly inviting to residents and visitors heading to Fort Myers Beach. Bike lanes should and could be added all the way from the Matanzas Pass Bridge to Summerlin Road, something FDOT has committed to do.

But the town has no real say in those segments since its jurisdiction ends at the Matanzas Pass Bridge. But the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, Lee Visitor and Convention Bureau, Fort Myers Beach Fire District (which has to deal with the many crashes there) and others who think there’s plenty of room for improvement on this aesthetically-challenged segment of San Carlos Boulevard could work with FDOT to get this done. Besides aesthetics, safety would be improved by replacing the wide curb lanes with narrower ones and adding bike lanes; this would reduce the propensity for drivers to travel well above the posted speed limit whenever traffic is not backedup as well as taking some bikes off the sidewalks. I have hope that FDOT will handle this and the Times Square side of the bridge in good-faith cooperation with everyone who needs to be at the table.
As usual, you’ll find more about this and other items of interest at BikeWalkLee’s blog (bikewalklee.blogspot.com). Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails.

— Dan Moser is CyclingSavvy instructor/ trainer and program director for the Florida Bicycle Association. He can be contacted at dan@floridabicycle.org or 334- 6417.

Upcoming events
Running/walking:
Satuday, May 17, Cape Cops 5K, Cape Coral
Yacht Club (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com)
Monday, May 26, Memorial Day 5K, Eastwood
Golf Course, Fort Myers (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com)
Saturday, May 31, Pink Heels 5K, Fort Myers
River District (www.3dracinginc.com)

Cycling and other events:
Visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club,
www.caloosariders.org
Naples Pathways Coalition,
www.naplespathways.org
Naples Velo, www.naplesvelo.com
Peace River Riders, www.peaceriverridersbicycleclub.com
Coastal Cruisers Bicycle Club, www.coastalcruisers.net

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