Goodbye Forever Big Red Barrels


    Elected officials, Lee County and Fort Myers Beach staff and local residents filled the parking lot of Charley’s Restaurant on Estero Boulevard Wednesday morning. It was a very festive occasion…the ribbon cutting to mark the end of the Estero Boulevard road construction project.

    The late Larry Kiker was praised by both Lee County officials and Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy. Kiker was Mayor on Fort Myers Beach for five years before being elected to the Lee County Board of Commissioners. He was the driving force behind getting the Estero Boulevard road project approved. Kiker died in 2019 from Lymphoma. Larry’s wife Paula was in attendance Wednesday to hear all the accolades for her husband.

    We interviewed Paula Kiker after the event and you can watch that interview HERE at the 30:30 mark.

    Murphy spoke about Kiker from the podium before the ribbon cutting. “Paula as you well know, and we all know down here on the beach, Larry was not a commissioner first he was a town councilman on FMB and a Mayor. It was Mayor Kiker that was elected to the County Commission and yes it was his dream to do this Boulevard out here and get these repairs made and he got it done. He was able to work with the gentleman on the board at that time and get this project through and here we are today.” Watch our post-ribbon-cutting interview with Mayor Murphy HERE.

    Ray Murphy, Cecil Pendergrass, Ray Sandelli and Brian Hamman

    The project took 6 years and finished several years early, according to Lee County officials. The total cost was $80 million.

    There were two major components of the project. The Estero Boulevard portion funded by Lee County which also included utility and streetscape improvements. FPL did utility updates, relocating utility poles and overhead power lines to the edge of the right-of-way. Simultaneously, the Town of Fort Myers Beach replaced waterlines and storm drainage along the Boulevard and side streets.

    6 segments of the project were done in 4 phases. The work included adding a total of 11.4 miles of new sidewalks, turn lanes, trolley stops, new bike lanes and a lot of drainage improvements. Over 9 miles of new drainage pipes were installed.
    Mayor Murphy thanked county commissioners, county staff, town employees, all the workers and the residents for their patience over the years. “The road is great. Not only does the Boulevard drain in the summertime, we have a dry boulevard out there now, but it’s also a fantastic boulevard for parades. We’ve had two parades here in the past couple of weeks and it’s been a pleasure. It’s a nice wide boulevard with lots of room for people on the sides and we are thoroughly enjoying it so far. So thank you very much.”

    If you missed the ceremony, we carried it live, and you can watch it HERE, including our post-event interviews with Commissioner Ray Sandelli, Mayor Ray Murhpy and Paula Kiker.

    The next major undertaking for Lee County on Fort Myers Beach is the Big Carlos Pass Bridge. The new 60-foot bridge will include two 12-foot travel lanes, seven-foot bike lanes, a 10-foot shared use path on the west side and a six-foot sidewalk on the east side. The cost is north of $80 million. The bridge will be constructed to the west, or gulf side, of the existing bridge. The Lee County Department of Transportation plans to start the construction of the new Big Carlos Pass Bridge this fiscal year.

    Thanks to Steve Duello for taking pictures and co-hosting the live event.

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