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Matanzas Pass Bridge could be widened

Signal at Main Street intersection on Fort Myers Beach also planned

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Oct 20, 2020

A state project could widen the Matanzas Pass Bridge in 2022 while adding a new traffic signal at the Main Street intersection before the bridge, along with a new traffic oval on the Estero Island side of the bridge on Fort Myers Beach.

Lee County Department of Transportation Director Randy Cerchie provided the broad details of the state’s plans at a meeting of the Town of Fort Myers Beach Council on Monday.

Cerchie said Matanzas Pass Bridge would be widened to allow for two lanes of traffic heading onto the island and one lane for traffic to turn off the bridge, along with a bike path.

Cerchie said he expects the Florida Department of Transportation to present more details at a public hearing in February or March. The construction is expected to begin in 2022, which will coincide with the expected construction of Margaritaville.

Meanwhile, Cerchie said the replacement of the Big Carlos Pass Bridge will undergo a public informational hearing in January. Cerchie said the tentative plan is for the session to take place Jan. 28 at the Bay Oaks Recreational Campus.

Cerchie said the county will have to conduct studies on impacts to seagrass, as well as threatened and protected manatees. Cerchie said he expects the Big Carlos Pass Bridge replacement project will likely take place in 2022. According to the county, the estimated cost of replacing Big Carlos Pass Bridge is $57 million.

The decision by the Lee County Board of County Commissioners in 2018 to approve a 60-feet high fixed span bridge to replace Big Carlos Pass Bridge was opposed by many on the island including the \ late county commissioner Larry Kiker.

On Monday, Mayor Ray Murphy noted his previous opposition to the new bridge and stated he was hopeful that there would be a place for the fishermen underneath the bridge to make up for the loss of fishing on the bridge. Murphy said it was his understanding that there was a consensus to provide a platform for fishing under the bridge. “What we’re really doing is cutting out all of these fishermen out of that bridge. That will be gone forever. I was hoping to accommodate them in some fashion.”

Cerchie said there was an option to place fishing piers there. “That all can be discussed at the public hearing,” he said.

In other county construction activities, Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais told the council he drove by the Estero Boulevard construction work ahead of Monday’s meeting. The project, which has been ongoing since 2015, is “really looking good. Can’t wait for it to be finished,” he said.

Desjarlais called the Estero Boulevard reconstruction “the most complicated road project I’ve ever been involved with.”

Councilmember Jim Atterholt described the Estero Boulevard construction project as “spectacular.” Atterholt said “I know it’s been a struggle” but said the stormwater system being installed along with the reconstruction is “a game-changer for our island.”

Fort Myers Beach Councilmember Bill Veach said the reconstruction of the road is a major improvement over the previous condition of the road. Veach explained how when it used to rain, the road was prone to flooding in some sections. “Now, when it does rain, I haven’t seen any problems at all,” he said.

“We are thinking about adopting the orange barrel as our official mascot on Fort Myers Beach,” Veach said.