Wednesday, January 5, 2011

U.S. 41 widening project in Estero includes sidewalks & bike lanes

Note: Thursday’s meeting is set for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Estero Community Park, 9200 Corkscrew Palms Boulevard, Estero.

Naples Daily News
U.S. 41 widening in Estero to start in mid-January

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The long-awaited widening of U.S. 41 to six lanes is slated to start in Estero mid-January.

The $14.2 million project is expected to be completed in 2 1/2 years in the summer of 2013, according to Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman Debbie Tower.

The four-lane 2.2-mile stretch of highway from Corkscrew Road to San Carlos Park Boulevard is the final four lane improvements to U.S. 41 from the Caloosacatchee River Bridge in Lee County to Collier Boulevard in Collier County.

Once the highway is completed, it will alleviate some of the traffic jam. In the meantime, the speed limit will be reduced to 40 mph for construction, which has several local businesses concerned.

“It’s long overdue,” Don Eslick, chairman of the Estero Council of Community Leaders, said.

Eslick said it’s a great project that will eliminate the traffic bottleneck.

FDOT is hosting a public information meeting to discuss the project Thursday afternoon.

The contract for the project has been awarded to Fort Lauderdale-based Russell Engineering.

Construction crews plan to build three 11- to 12-foot lanes in each direction, designated bicycle lanes, and 5- to 6-foot sidewalks on both sides of the roadway, according to a DOT prepared statement.

Construction in a traffic congested area will occur during both day and night hours, where several small businesses and mobile home parks are located. Lane closures in travel lanes will not occur during peak travel times.

All traffic will shift to the west while crews build three new northbound lanes. When these lanes are built, crews will move all traffic to the east to use them.

Crews will start construction on the west side of the roadway and build three new southbound lanes.

In the next phase, southbound drivers will move to the west side and use the new outside southbound lanes. Northbound drivers will use the two outside northbound lanes. This traffic shift will allow crews to install irrigation lines and landscaping in the median.

“This job will be challenging,” Tower said in an e-mail.

“Crews are completely reconstructing the road – relocating utilities and placing new drainage systems – and doing bridge work, which is complex construction.”

Some local businesses are concerned.

“I’m scared,” said Teri Ann Butzin, owner of We’re Hair For You on U.S. 41. “I haven’t seen any road projects that haven’t put a business in jeopardy.”

Butzin opened less than two years ago at the Broadway Shoppes at the 20400 block of U.S. 41 South.

“If someone’s destination is within the work zone, he or she, of course, will be able to get there,” Tower said.

“We’ll be working with business owners to place blue and white signs to help people get to business locations.”

If destinations aren’t within the construction zone, there are alternate routes drivers may choose, Tower added.

As of Tuesday, DOT officials said the hadn’t received any calls from concerned businesses.

But not all merchants are worried about losing business.

Tom Stawicki, co-owner of Ro-Lin, car, truck and motorhome rentals, on the east side of U.S. 41, is staying positive.

Although his business will be affected by construction, Stawicki said customers could use a rear entrance through Broadway Avenue. He plans to attend Thursday’s meeting to discover how his customers will find and enter his business. Nearby at Memett’s fresh fruit and vegetable market, owner Mehmet Cingoz is confident that his customers will continue to buy their fresh produce from his market.

“I’m not really concerned too much about it.” Cingoz said.

“That’s something that needs to be done.”

Cingoz echoed Stawicki about patrons using a back road entrance.

It was a similar sentiment at the Broadway Shoppes off of U.S. 41 South in an area where traffic normally backs up around peak times.

Rick Johnson manager Brad Lawson said he hopes the only entrance to the plaza isn’t closed for construction, and that his customers continue to visit regardless of the work.

The project includes, replacing signals at Corkscrew Road, Broadway Avenue and San Carlos Park Boulevard and a new emergency signal at the George Horne Fire Station at the U.S. 41 and County Road,

As part of project improvements, underground work such as relocation of electric and telephone cables and drainage, water and sewer pipes will also be done.

To protect the Koreshan State Historic Site buildings, contractors will use an underground buffer to protect the historic buildings on the west side of U.S. 41.

Tower urged drivers to be part of the “safety team.”

“Throughout construction, drivers must pay attention, watch their speed, and not tailgate,” she said.

Thursday’s meeting is set for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Estero Community Park, 9200 Corkscrew Palms Boulevard, Estero.

The open-format meeting will give attendees an opportunity to review the project-design plans and mingle with DOT officials. There will be no formal presentations, Tower said.

BikeWalkLee Report from Forum:

Bert Hamilton attended the public workshop and filed the following report:
The US 41 project north of Corkscrew looks great at tonight’s FDOT open house. Sidewalks and signed bike lanes throughout on both sides. The only question I have is if they plan to connect US41 from south of Alico to San Carlos with bike lanes. There is a big gap here... the widening project looks top notch.

Thanks for covering, Bert, and thanks to FDOT for accommodating all users in the design of this road widening project.

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