30 years ago: Hopes rose for U.S. 41 widening


Special to The Banner

HIGHWAY UPDATE: In the latest in a series of odd twists, the U.S. Coast Guard was tapped to become involved in Estero’s U.S. 41 widening saga 30 years ago this week.

Transportation officials were taking another look at the highway’s route in Estero, in hopes that a permit could be obtained from the USCG to build a bridge over the Estero River near the Koreshan settlement in order to push the project through.

At the time, the 4.8-mile project was being held up by the designation of Koreshan as a national historic site, long after the right of way had been purchased to widen the road next to the settlement. Regulations prohibited highway construction next to historic sites to deter noise pollution.

Jim Kennedy, a project development engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation, was hoping he could find a way around the restrictions and get the road widened along its existing route, strongly favored by locals. A proposed “westerly alignment” was environmentally sensitive, costly, and unpopular with local residents.

Kennedy said the existing route could possibly be changed to a “municipal section” which would require new plans to be drawn up, a process that would take about nine months.

The controversy had gone on for so long, though, that plans were nearly complete for the westerly alignment. Right of way acquisition, expected to take up to two years, had an estimated cost of $8.3 million.

Kennedy said DOT still favored the original route.

“We’re going to take one last shot at getting it,” he said.

Meanwhile, positive feedback came from Gov. Bob Graham’s office in Tallahassee that he would lend his support to the existing route.

At the same time, a trio of local residents was about to meet with officials in Washington, D.C., to press for the project to be completed along its existing route.

County Commissioner Roland “Ro” Roberts, 41 Committee Chairman Walter Shikany and attorney James Humphrey planned to plead their case to officials and present nearly 7,000 signatures supporting the project.

WILD COWS: And speaking of Roberts, the District 3 commissioner thought he’d heard just about every type of gripe from constituents, but a complaint from an Estero resident gave him a chuckle.

Mrs. E. Margaret Cole told the commissioner residents were having a problem with wild cattle tearing up yards along Leuttich Lane in Estero and nibbling on shrubbery.

“Mrs. Cole told the commissioner residents have been trying for more than a year to get the cows removed, and that although deputies of the sheriff’s department are cooperative, there is little they can do,” The Banner reported.

“It’s a civil matter,” Cole told Roberts.

According to residents, the cows were strays from former ranching activity in the area and had grown wild.

They came out of the woods at night to forage. Favorite snacks included hibiscus and palms.

REAL ESTATE: Gulder Real Estate had all sorts of properties listed, including a two-story home surrounded by water on three sides, priced at $135,000, and three duplexes for $120,000.

Henry Minster’s Fidelity Florida Realty was offering 5- and 10-acre parcels behind the dog track for $3,500 to $3,750 per acre and a business lot on U.S. 41 for $15,000.

DINING OUT: The Rooftop restaurant on Bonita Beach was enticing diners with its $3.50 buffet luncheon and Lucky Landing on Bonita Beach Road had seafood specials for $2.95 with all the trimmings.

Next to Bonita Lanes, the community’s year-old bowling alley, Bonita’s Family Restaurant had daily specials of ham, pork chops, baked chicken and prime rib for $3.95 to $4.50.

At the Lemon Tree on Old 41, lunch specials started at $1.85. Just up the road, the Peppermill was serving baby back ribs for $6.95, scallops for $5.95 and stone crab claws for $7.95.

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