It’s a project that’s disrupted the traffic flow on Fort Myers Beach for years. However, everyone on the island knows it needed to be done. And, as we see longer stretches of the Boulevard completed, there is a big bright light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s get an update on the big project directly from those doing the work. Kaye Molnar is the Public Information Officer for Lee County’s Estero Boulevard Improvements and the Town of Fort Myers Beach Waterlines projects.
1) Can you please give us an update on exactly where the work is being done now and, how much longer you will be in that specific area, and how it’s going?
Kaye Molnar: Currently, Estero Boulevard crews are working at the south end of Segment 4 (Lanark Avenue to Albatross Street). Storm drain crews are currently installing storm drain pipe to the south through the “S” curve near the Church of the Ascension. Roadway crews are grading the bay side for curb, sidewalk and green space areas while concrete crews form and pour sidewalk behind them. Permanent mailboxes are being installed on the bayside where concrete work is completed. Concrete crews are also forming and pouring header curb on both sides of the center lane storm drain trench. Then paver crews will install the center lane pave drain blocks. The inverted crown roadway with the center lane drainage system will end and a more typical crowned roadway will begin just South of Flamingo Street. More information about the crowned roadway design can be found in the response to your question #4. Completion of the project through Segment 4 is anticipated by the end of this year.
2) We know there are many things going on at one time during this project, many different agencies trying to work together in a timely fashion to complete the project. Can you please explain that and how it’s going.
Kaye Molnar: This is a very complex project with multiple underground utilities being relocated and installed within, what is in some areas, a very narrow road right-of-way. To further complicate the project, one of the largest challenges was to design a stormwater system for a road that never had a drainage system on an island where there is little to no land available for stormwater ponds for flood control and water treatment.
There are several contractors working on the boulevard and side streets that have to go ahead of the road improvements. In addition to Lee County’s Estero Boulevard Improvements crews and the Town’s Waterlines crews, there are numerous utility crews working for CenturyLink, Comcast, Florida Power & Light and other small communications companies that have to relocate their services prior to the road improvement contractor beginning in an area.
Here’s an example of the current work: The Town’s Waterlines crews have been working ahead of the Estero Boulevard crews along the boulevard. Waterlines crews have nearly completed the installation of the new water main from Albatross Street to the end of the island. They are currently waiting for Florida Department of Environmental Protection approval to begin making the individual water connections. Before the Estero Boulevard crews can begin, the Waterline crews must complete all the connections and take the old water main out of service.
Lee County’s Estero Boulevard crews are currently working from Strandview Avenue to Albatross Street, which is Segments 3 & 4. They have substantially completed all travel lanes from Strandview Avenue to Lazy Way and are working on restoring the right-of-way. There are currently crews installing stormwater drainage in the center lane and at the side streets, another crew is building sidewalk and roadway, and concrete crews are pouring curb, sidewalk and driveways from Lazy Way to Albatross Street. Work will begin in Segments 5 & 6 in late summer when the Waterlines work is completed.
3) Can you please explain what is being created in terms of bike lanes throughout the length of the project.
Kaye Molnar: With the exception on Segment 1 where the right-of-way is very narrow (approximately 50 feet wide), five-foot wide bike lanes will be provided on both sides of Estero Boulevard from near the Red Coconut RV Park to the south end of the island. Additionally, sidewalks ranging from six to nine feet wide on both side of Estero Boulevard will be provided the entire length of the project.
4) What do you want the residents to know about how the project is progressing or anything else about the project they should be aware of? Kaye Molnar: As stated earlier, this is truly a complex project with requires constant coordination and scheduling with others. Through relationship building and lessons learned, teams have a better understanding of each other’s roles and are working more efficiently to complete the project. The center lane drainage system has been a challenging, yet necessary, design due to the narrow right-of-way on Estero Boulevard. We are now seeing the benefits of reduced flooding along with the unseen benefits of water quality treatment that occurs below ground within the completed segments.
Change in design from inverted roadway design to a crowned roadway design in Segments 5 & 6: In May 2020, Lee County and the Town of Fort Myers Beach sent out a joint newsletter (see attached newsletter) to residents and businesses from Albatross Street to the south end of the island to update them on the projects and to present the design for the remainder of the island. The proposed Estero Boulevard roadway and drainage design for Segments 5 & 6 will consist of a crowned roadway with curb and gutter leading to an enclosed drainage system. This design is different than the previous inverted crown roadway design with the center lane drainage system that exists in Segments 1 through 4. Other proposed Estero Boulevard improvements include sidewalks on both sides of the road, designated bike lanes, trolley stops, and drainage improvements on Estero Boulevard with connections to the Town drainage projects.
Right-of-way widths within these segments allow for wider sidewalks and larger green space areas. With the combination of roadway changes, buffers between the roadway, wider sidewalks and several relatively low-lying properties, there may be locations with sizeable elevation changes between the ROW and adjacent properties. In this situation, a retaining wall will be constructed at the ROW line and a pedestrian safety rail installed on top of the wall. At some locations, walls may be avoided if property owners agree to provide slope easements to the County. Pedestrian safety rails will also be required where drainage structures, located at the back of the sidewalk, will collect off-site stormwater.
5) What is the timeframe to have all of the work completed and is it on schedule as you had hoped?
Kaye Molnar: Segments 3 & 4 from Publix to Albatross Street are expected to be completed by the end of this year. At their June 16 meeting, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners approved an $18,912,725 contract with Chris-Tel Construction for Segments 5 & 6 which are the final two segments at the southern end of the island. Work in these segments is expected to begin soon to clear the right-of way, then replace portions of the sanitary sewer force main and then complete all Estero Boulevard Improvements. The project is expected to be completed at the end of 2021.
6) Where can everyone find more information about Lee County’s Estero Boulevard and the Town of Fort Myers Beach’s Waterlines projects?
Kaye Molnar: Questions? Need information or to sign up for the Weekly Construction Look Ahead? Check out the project website at www.reFRESHFMBeach.com to see the roadway design for each segment and track project progress. Sign up to receive the Weekly Construction Look Ahead or contact the Public Information Office for the projects at 239-337-1071 or email to info@reFRESHFMBeach.com.