ESTERO — Just a few short years ago, the road was called Koreshan Boulevard. It was a dinky little street that connected U.S. 41 to Three Oaks Parkway. No traffic signals or gated communities. Most of the land along the road was devoted to cattle grazing.
It’s since been renamed Estero Parkway, and it opened Friday.
Now flanked by plush gated communities, the road has been stretched up and over Interstate 75 to connect with the rapidly growing area near Florida Gulf Coast University.
Capacity as of today is 20,000 vehicles daily.
“It’s a godsend,” said Craig Brush, Florida Everblades president and general manager. “Traffic gets so jammed up at Corkscrew Road during any event. This gives people one more east-west route to get to this area.”
The Everblades hockey team plays at Germain Arena near Miromar Outlets. Brush said he expects many of the 6,500 to 7,000 fans coming to Saturday’s home game will use the new bridge.
San Carlos Park and Estero communities have experienced tremendous growth in recent years, especially the area between I-75 and Ben Hill Griffin Parkway, the main entrance to Florida Gulf Coast University.
The project was bid at just over $35 million and took about two years to complete.
“Lots of stuff has happened in that area,” said Don DeBerry with Lee County Department of Transportation. “Gulf Coast (Town Center mall) is there. And Florida Gulf Coast University has grown much more than we expected when the traffic study was done in 2002.”
The 20,000-vehicle-capacity number came from that 2002 study. Now nearly a decade old, it may not be an accurate representation of traffic needs in that area.
The numbers used in the 2002 projected huge growth in the south Lee County area, which was the case until the housing market collapsed three years ago.
With fewer homes being built and sold than was expected, the roadway could be free of congestion for years to come.
County commissioners, civic groups and residents celebrated a ribbon cutting ceremony on the bridge Friday morning. Traffic opened shortly after 10 a.m.
DeBerry said the new roadway is expected to improve emergency response and hurricane evacuation times.
Reach Chad Gillis at firstname.lastname@example.org. A version of this story was printed in The Banner.