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Talking traffic

Town council discusses traffic issues at planning session.

August 30, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Has there ever been a time when in-season traffic hasn't been the bemoaned issue of Fort Myers Beach?

Traffic issues was one of the top concerns for council members when they first met with strategic planning facilitator Lorna Kibbey in June. During the last session with Kibbey in August, she tasked each council member to research ideas for a specific area of interest. Mayor Dennis Boback was assigned to look into traffic, and the council met Aug. 22 to discuss an idea he came up with.

But, each council person had their own concerns and priorities with traffic.

Ultimately, the town council agreed to stop any traffic ideas until after the Florida Department of Transportation returns to council with its updated traffic study of San Carlos Boulevard, from Hurricane Pass to Crescent Street. Vice Mayor Tracey Gore said the study is supposed to be finished in a month or two.

The meeting's purpose was to discuss the council's goals in traffic.

"We want to move traffic at that intersection where the bridge, Estero, and Fifth meet," Shamp said. "We want to get cars into parking lots as quickly as we can and off the road."

Discussion turned to the council members' various ideas of solutions that could help.

Here's what each council member had to say on traffic solutions. None of these ideas would be implemented without an engineering consultant and public input.

Mayor Dennis Boback:

Boback drew out a potential new traffic pattern that he believed could help congestion at the base of the bridge. The signal would be removed. Center Street, a former town street now a parking lot by Winds, would be reopened and made one-way to Old San Carlos. He'd make the section of street from the corner of Fifth Street, where the Tiki Hut is now, to Old San Carlos Blvd.into one way and then redirect traffic trying to move south or off the island down Old San Carlos and up Crescent Street to turn onto the bridge. The pattern would create a semi-loop that Boback thought could help the flow of traffic.

"Opening Center Street with open a lot of congestion," Boback said.

Vice Mayor Tracey Gore:

Gore is the town representative for the Metropolitan Planning Organization. She said she thought the council was getting ahead of itself by talking about potential solutions before the FDOT study returned. She also thought changing traffic patterns could be a hardship for some residents.

"I'm a creature of habit, but I can learn it," she said.

She supported opening up Center Street again, as it could help funnel traffic trying to get to the restaurants away from the traffic trying to get to Times Square or the north end of the island. Center Street was closed off after the Matanzas Pass Bridge was built, replacing the swing bridge.

Bruce Butcher:

Butcher said he'd like to eliminate the left-hand turn from Estero Boulevard onto Crescent Street. He's seen the turn lane backed up and thinks it's a major contributor to congestion, as someone turning left has to wait for an opening and also wait for any pedestrians to be clear of the road, and it's a popular crossway. It's also difficult for drivers to turn left from Crescent Street to travel south on Estero.

"I'm against all left turns on Estero, anywhere," he said.

Joanne Shamp:

Shamp said some congestion could be fixed by strategically placing signage before people get on the island, so they aren't trying to figure out where to go. She's advocated a comprehensive signage system that tells drivers which lane will take them where, where they can find parking, and which direction certain points of interest are. She suggested even an app could be developed.

"We need a sign before the bridge. You're sitting there waiting, there might as well be a sign that says when you finally get there, these will be your choices," she said.

Anita Cereceda:

Cereceda said no other area of the 7-mile island has been discussed as much as the traffic congestion at the base of the bridge. In the past, FDOT has mentioned putting a roundabout at the base of the bridge and eliminating the traffic light. That was her preference, she said. Roundabouts often grip people with fear of the change, but she said they are designed for a specific place with a specific pattern and aren't "cookie cutter." She believes the key to the roundabout is that it would improve the flow of traffic.

"The most important thing for the five of us to do is to say, yes FDOT, we're going to commit to the roundabout and not give in to to 'it didn't work in Clearwater, it doesn't work in Carmel, Ind.,' because it will work in Fort Myers Beach," she said.



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