VIDEO/PHOTOS: Interstate 75 widening nearly complete

Video from NBC-2

There is a possibility that the construction mess on Immokalee Road could be completed by the holidays — at the same time as the new lanes on Interstate 75 are expected to be finished and open.

Yet, iROX Public Information Manager Dave Parks said the Immokalee Road portion of the massive I-75 widening may push the project’s final completion date to April 2010.

Drivers are already seeing the finishing touches being done on the interstate.

The final phase of the iROX project started Wednesday night from Golden Gate Parkway to Pine Ridge Road with crews laying the final layer of asphalt on the outside, northbound lane.

Thursday night, crews will continue laying friction course, the final layer of asphalt, on the middle lanes. And on Wednesday night of next week, the inside lanes will get the final layer of asphalt. The road will be limited to one lane at night.

Plans are to complete all of the northbound lanes and then start working on the southbound lanes.

The project is increasing I-75 from four to six lanes between Colonial Boulevard in Lee County and Golden Gate Parkway in Collier County.

New lanes on I-75 are expected to be open for the holidays, eight months earlier than expected. And although iROX officials say they hope to finish everything by the holidays, the official completion date is set for April 2010.

At the Immokalee Road interchange, an overpass bridge deck has been completed, but Parks said a bridge tie-in is still needed, which is when crews bring the asphalt up to the edge of the concrete deck.

The bridge will be wider and longer to accommodate the added lanes on I-75 and the added lanes below, on Immokalee Road.

Now that the bridge itself is complete, crews are starting to focus on the road itself, which at times may mean traffic jams on Immokalee Road near the intersection.

“It’s really tough,” said Mindy DiPietro, owner of D’Amici Salon & Spa in the Pelican Strand.

DiPietro suggested bringing in a law enforcement officer during rush hours to help ease congestion coming from Strand and Juliet boulevards onto Immokalee Road.

“It’s just been going on forever,” she said, referring to the construction project.

When asked if her business had been affected by the construction, DiPietro said business was good, but didn’t know if there would be an increase in customers if it were more convenient to access her salon. The business has been open for a year.

There have been times, DiPietro said, that she has gotten phone calls from customers stuck in traffic.

“We are looking forward to it being completed,” she said.

Across the road off of Immokalee Road on Juliet Boulevard at the Wal-Mart Super Center, many motorists sit helplessly and wait for the traffic to ease during peak hours.

“The overpass is a killer,” said Karen Eldred, of North Naples.

Eldred said that depending on the time of the day, she makes U-turns to avoid the traffic to get to her home.

Although traffic on Immokalee Road isn’t currently great, Eldred said it was better than before.

Others simply try to avoid the traffic mess.

Meagan Schneider, of Ave Maria, said she does her shopping during mid-morning to beat the rush hour traffic.

Work remaining to be done on Immokalee Road includes paving new lanes, drainage and utility.

Currently, there is room for five lanes underneath the bridge and when all of the work is done there will be 12 lanes of traffic, Parks said.

Even though drivers are seeing the final layers of asphalt being poured, Parks stressed the importance of keeping an eye out for crews.

Anderson Columbia Company Inc. and Ajax Paving Industries may earn a $15 million bonus for completing the project early. The incentive is $100,000 for every day ahead of the contract deadline, up to a maximum of $15 million, Parks said.

Based on the current schedule of construction, the contractors could earn the bonus, he said.

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Connect with Tracy X. Miguel at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tracy_x_miguel/

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