Photo by ROGER LALONDE, Staff // Buy this photo
Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff // Buy this photo
MARCO ISLAND — Arriving on Marco Island is going to get a lot easier thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The Jolley Bridge that leads to the island is in line for more than $28 million in stimulus funding, assuming a project list released by Gov. Charlie Crist’s office Thursday is approved by the Legislature later this month.
The money would build a new two-lane bridge next to the existing bridge, making two lanes each way. It also would pay for the road work necessary for the new bridge.
Marco Island City Council Chairman William Trotter said it was great news.
Trotter said it was wonderful for both Marco Island residents and visitors to the island.
Apart from resolving traffic congestion during high season and rush hour, the bridge is a top health and safety concern because it’s rated to sustain Category 3 hurricanes and it’s a major evacuation route. In addition, the current bridge has no emergency lane.
A new bridge would be able to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and would contain a break-down lane in each direction to help avoid delays caused by traffic accidents and facilitate access by emergency vehicles.
In addition, Trotter said the current bridge would continue to be maintained by the state.
“I think this was our last chance to get a bridge without having a toll,” Trotter said.
In late February, the Collier Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to keep the $55 million expansion of the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge at the top of the list for federal stimulus money. The original plan was to tear down the existing bridge and build two new bridges, each having two lanes.
At that meeting Trotter made a recommendation to Florida Department of Transportation officials that if the bridge couldn’t receive full funding for two new bridges then one new bridge could be built and the old bridge rehabilitated.
Knowing that stimulus money would be limited, Debbie Tower, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Transportation, said FDOT worked with the Collier MPO, local staff and other transportation partners to submit a modified proposal.
The new $28 million project would build a new parallel span with two lanes adjacent to the existing bridge and rehabilitate the existing bridge.
“The project’s intent is to add capacity to the bridge,” Tower said.
If funding is received, it would cover the proposed new bridge and maintenance.
Trotter said FDOT was hoping for low bids so that the bridge could include a sidewalk.
“I hope it’s enough to do the job properly,” said Keith Dameron, an advocate for the Marco Island bridge expansion
Federal stimulus money will also help move traffic in south Lee County, but it will be on a brand new Metro Parkway extension, not on U.S. 41.
The ARRA funding was announced by the state Thursday. It sends $122 million into the five southwest Florida counties that make up District 1.
“We’re ready,” said local FDOT spokeswoman Debbie Tower. “Shovel-ready is the key. Shovel-ready is a critical component. We’re looking forward to very competitive bids.”
The biggest local winner is Metro, a new four-lane road from Alico Road north to Six Mile Cypress Parkway. The shovel-ready job gets the $62 million it needs for construction.
The Metro project might have begun five years ago, but the market was radically different then. FDOT bid the project in 2004 expecting to pay around $39 million. The low bid came in at $56 million. Metro has been on local road project lists since at least the late 1990s.
Both the big local projects were awarded federal funding at the state and local levels. The Metro project includes $5 million awarded to Lee County and the Jolley Bridge includes just under $5.6 million that went to Collier.
A handful of smaller projects made it onto the local list in Lee County.
Adding paved shoulders to Buckingham Road between State Road 82 and Neal Road will cost $800,000. A new left turn lane where Daniels Parkway meets Bell Tower road will cost $600,000.
Adding a bike lane to Summerlin Road where it runs through the Sanibel Causeway toll plaza — which includes 2.1 miles of bike lane — will cost $535,969. A new dual left turn lane at Sunshine and Lee boulevards in Lehigh Acres will cost $500,000. Building a new left turn lane at Homestead Road and Milwaukee Boulevard, also in Lehigh, will cost $100,000.
Lee County transportation director Scott Gilbertson said that the six-laning of the last remaining four-lane stretch of U.S. 41 between Fort Myers and Naples may be a higher priority than Metro, but it’s not shovel-ready.
That project would widen 41 between Corkscrew Road and San Carlos Park. Design and permitting work for a drainage pond on the old Boomer Estate property south of the Koreshan State Historic Site is not yet complete, so it was kept off the list.
Gilbertson said that the Metro project will take traffic off 41, but all the work — and all the congestion relief — will be north of Alico.
“Metro will provide an alternative for traffic all the way through Fort Myers,” he said. “This southern leg will make it much more expedient to get on Metro.”
In fact when the state reconfigured Alico Road just last year it did so allowing for the future Metro work.
Tower said the department will be ready to bid the projects as soon as the Legislature and then the Federal Highway Administration approves.
“Once we have the final go-ahead we’ll assemble the bid packages and get them to Tallahassee,” she said. “We intend to move as quickly as we can.”