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Residents review FDOT ideas

March 7, 2018
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

It was a long-awaited meeting: Florida Department of Transportation finally unveiled some of its ideas to loosen up traffic on San Carlos Boulevard.

Residents perused the six alternatives at a public meeting Feb. 27 at Chapel by the Sea. FDOT staff was on hand and ready to answer questions about the different ideas.

FDOT showed posterboards of the six alternatives. Four are located on Fort Myers Beach, and two on San Carlos Island.

Article Photos

FDOT Consultant Smith Siromaskul talks to beach resident Larry Wood.

None of the option are the final selection. As part of the study, FDOT must get public input before making a choice. Most likely the final selection will include several of the alternatives that work together to improve traffic.

Here's a look at the suggested options:

Beach Alternative 1: Restripe lanes on Matanzas Pass Bridge to convert trolley lane to vehicle lane and make two lanes headed to the beach and one lane off; add a sidewalk on west side of bridge; add traffic signals at Old San Carlos Blvd., Fifth St. and Crescent St.; remove blinking light.

Fact Box

For renderings of all six traffic improvement alternatives, go to

Beach Alternative 2: Same improvements as Alternative 1, plus running the two lanes on the bridge all the way to Crescent St.

Beach Alternative 3: Alternative 1 and 2 improvements plus making a one-way streets on Crescent, Fifth, the section of Estero between Fifth and Crescent.

Beach Alternative 4: Alternatives 1-3 plus making a new island exit route by making a ramp up Crescent St. to the bridge.

Island Alternative 1: Remove pedestrian crossing before Hurricane Pass Bridge; Shrink lane width from 12 feet to 11 feet; Add bike lanes; Add a sidewalk on the southbound side of Hurricane Pass Bridge; Add a traffic signal at Main Street; eliminating left turn to Main Street from San Carlos Boulevard; opening up two lanes from the Prescott/Buttonwood signal to the bridge for general use instead of one right-turn lane and one beach lane; and realigning Fisherman's Wharf so drivers drive straight to go under the bridge, instead of taking a right and jogging left.

Island Alternative 2: Remove pedestrian crossing before Hurricane Pass Bridge; Shrink lane width from 12 feet to 11 feet; Add bike lanes; Add a sidewalk on the southbound side of Hurricane Pass Bridge; Add the traffic signal at Main Street; extend the trolley lane to Main Street.

Renderings and sketches of these options can be viewed online at

FDOT has been working on this study since 2015, although it's been one of many traffic studies on the San Carlos Boulevard corridor.

Some of the Beach Alternative options would include installing a handrail from Fifth Street to Crescent Street to funnel pedestrians to cross safely at crosswalks, rather than crossing Estero Boulevard when it's convenient.

Opinions were mixed on the study results, some of which were similar to a presentation given to the Fort Myers Beach Town Council in a Nov. 2016 meeting.

Although the possibilities of putting roundabouts at intersections has long been discussed, the Feb. 27 meeting plans did not include any. Margie Tirey, a San Carlos Island resident, was disappointed.

"I think the Main Street light will help," she said. "I'd like to see a roundabout there, I think it would keep traffic flowing."

In the 2016 meeting with council, FDOT discussed some potential roundabouts, but some council members believed a roundabout would be dangerous for people visiting the island.

Joanne Shamp, a San Carlos Island resident, didn't oppose the suggestions for San Carlos Boulevard with the exception of a few aspects of Island Alternative 1. This suggestion bars left turns from Estero Boulevard onto Main Street. If a vehicle wants to get to Main Street with this model, it would drive directly to Fisherman's Wharf, under the bridge and around to Main. In this scenario, Fisherman's Wharf would be moved to align with the right-most lane of San Carlos Boulevard; now, drivers have to turn right and jog to the left to get under the bridge.

Semmer said the traffic light at Main Street would be a good safety improvement, but the no left turn would cause problems for larger rigs.

"Going under the bridge would be impossible for semis," she said.

The turn would be too hard for them to make, and Semmer thought Buttonwood Drive would be too narrow to support a semi for an alternative route.

Beach Alternative 4, with the Crescent Street ramp, would likely be the most expensive option, said Stuart Samberg, an FDOT representative.

It would also be the most invasive option for residents and businesses on Crescent.

Doris Grant would be looking at the ramp out of her front door every day.

With the ramp, and a one-way on Crescent Street, she would have to travel up Old San Carlos Boulevard to get to Estero Boulevard and drive south.

Turning Crescent into a one-way ramp could also encourage speedy driving on a side street, Grant said, and put the residents and vacationers in the hearing range of fire trucks using the ramp to respond to calls.

"It would be a speedway up to the bridge," she said.

Grant had her own suggestion: instead of putting a light at Fifth and Old San Carlos, the town or county should put a "scramble" and a crossing guard. The guard stops traffic so that pedestrians can cross in the intersection, or "scramble," until the guard stops the pedestrians to allow vehicle traffic to move.

Chris Frizzell of Jungle Golf thought the ramp could work. The mini-golf course operates a few miles north of the proposed changes, but what happens on the beach affects his business, he said, so he stays updated on the goings-on.

He thought the ramp and one-way roads would give people an easier track to follow if they were new visitors to the beach. He's seen similar methods used in other areas of Florida, and it seems to work there, he said.

"The other options are more restrictive," he said. "You have to take everyone into consideration. No matter how strongly you feel, you have to be flexible. You have to have an open mind."

Crescent Street and Fifth Street, two areas FDOT used in its analysis of options, are town-owned. The town would have to approve any changes on those streets.

Having two lanes onto the beach and one lane off would inhibit the county's trolley system, which currently has its own lane on the bridge. But Charles Bream, the project manager, said converting the trolley lane to a general-use lane would be a better use of the bridge's capacity.

"The trolley system right now doesn't do anything for traffic," Bream said. "It would be a better use to convert the trolley lane."

Lee County finished the new Park and Ride facility at 11101 Summerlin Square Drive in 2017 and opened it in December. The facility is supposed to encourage beach visitors to park for free off-island and take public transportation to the beach. The project cost Lee County about $5.2 million, and FDOT gave the project a $2.4 million.

Matanza's Pass Bridge isn't up for replacement for a while, so FDOT is trying to utilize what it already has to work with, Samberg said. Utilizing the full two lanes on would allow traffic to split up early, with signs directing one lane to the north end of the island and the other lane to Estero Boulevard and south.

"We're not going to change the fact that a lot of people come to the beach...It would maybe ease up the bumper to bumper," Samberg said.

According to the meeting handout, the study will end this summer and FDOT will use comments collected at the meeting to determine which alternatives will move forward. Adding sidewalks to the west side of Matanzas Pass Bridge is included in FDOT's 2018-2019 tentative budget, but no other part of the study has been incorporated into the schedule.



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