POLL: Collier transportation officials make Jolley Bridge top priority for federal stimulus funding

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— As the federal stimulus plan moved its way through Congress Friday, Collier County transportation officials got a potential list of local projects ready.

Collier’s Metropolitan Planning Organization board on Friday voted unanimously to make the $55 million expansion of the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge its top priority of potential projects for federal funding.

Collier Commissioner Fred Coyle told the board that the Marco Island bridge would create more construction jobs than any other project on the list.

Chairman for the Marco Island City Council William Trotter agreed with Coyle and motioned that the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge be moved up from the staff ranking, where it was tied for third, to the top spot. The board voted unanimously to move it up the list.

Apart from resolving traffic congestion in the future, Trotter said the bridge was a top health and safety concern because it’s rated to sustain Category 3 hurricanes and it’s a major evacuation route.

So far, the state has spent $3 million to design a replacement of the bridge.

Once the funding is worked out, the Florida Department of Transportation will look at the priorities from transportation officials across District 1, which includes 12 counties, said FDOT spokeswoman Debbie Tower.

FDOT officials said they need to make sure that priorities are “production ready” and determine what projects that can be funded.

Federal funding will be allocated to each state, Tower said.

Collier County’s remaining top five priorities are:

n State Road 84 expansion project from Santa Barbara to Radio Road

n Stormwater improvements to address flooding on Country Barn Road, including Davis Boulevard to Rattlesnake Hammock Road

n Address customer service and expansion of Collier Area Transit transfer station at the government center

n Interchange improvements to overcome failures that impact I-75.

The Florida Department of Transportation Southwest Area Director Johnny Limbaugh explained that 50 percent of the money that comes to the MPO has to be obligated within 90 days and the rest by June.

When FDOT receives federal funds, Limbaugh said it will be used on projects that are ready to go. If projects aren’t “shovel ready” FDOT skip them and move to the next item that is.

Coyle recommended the board prioritize production-ready projects.

“I think we stand a chance of getting more funding if we do it like that,” he said.

If the projects aren’t production-ready, Limbaugh said the funds would be allocated to other counties.

Not everyone agreed with prioritizing the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge.

Director of the Citizens Transportation Coalition Gina Downs told the board that according to a Cambridge Systematics draft final report “FDOT’S assessment is that the bridge overall is in good physical condition and, with common routine maintenance, can be expected to function safely for another 20 years. With more substantial efforts, its durability may extend to 40 years.”

She said the group looks at the Jolley Bridge replacement as a “pork project.”

The coalition would prefer to prioritize the Oil Well Road project, which includes enhancing services in eastern county with an opportunity to change direction flows.

Downs said the coalition spoke against tax payers money being used for construction of the bridge months ago.

“I don’t think we are going to get $55 million for the bridge,” Limbaugh said.

Another concerned attendee was Joe Adams, vice chairman of the Pathway Advisory Committee.

He said most of the material, including steel and lumber, for the bridge wouldn’t come from Collier County.

Coyle disagreed and said concrete and gravel would be from Southwest Florida. And even if other material came from the north, Coyle said a lot more people would be employed.

Of the 49 projects that were ranked for the economic stimulus, 10 were “production ready.”

There is also another state project list for the federal stimulus package, which include the bridge and State Road 84, according to Collier County MPO Director Phil Tindall.

“I was delighted that the MPO voted unanimously to move that motion to number 1,” Trotter said. “I think it’s a critical project for our area.”

Trotter said he is making an "impassioned plea" for Islanders to show their support for the Jolley Bridge project before and during the 2 p.m. Feb. 27 meeting at Naples City Hall.

"This may be our only chance to get this bridge without getting a toll," he said.

Additional reporting by Kelly Farrell

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 5

deltarome writes:

Another total waste of borrowed money by Obama. The travel time reduced by the bridge addition will never offset all the time delays from the construction!
Forget the mess, noise, environmental damage......
Will the Marco Blogs be against this or for this, since it will be mostly Federal dollars.

August8 writes:

"This is just crazy--The market knows, down 250 to 7600, the market tells the future!!

If the Jolly nees expansion, let the area residents decide and devote the local dollars!!

fatiguedelavie writes:

August8; The local tourist dollars have already paid for this bridge. The money was diverted elsewhere in the county over the years. If we want to continue receiving tourist dollars from this cash cow called Marco, we better make sure the tourists can still get there.

August8 writes:

"Fatigeuedelavie" Dude, I really do not care about tourist dollars, what I hate is this 8 billion dollar$$$$$$ check this idiot president just wrote!!!

Tourism on Marco, fine fight over that money, seems legitamate, however, don't see enough there to buy a bridge one way or another??

sailingalong writes:

The Jolly Bridge is fine. Why aren't we trying to get the $19 million dollars needed to replace the Smoke House Bay Bridge which Ronny Joel has told us is in very bad condition?

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