Marco's Jolley Bridge open house
FDOT's Debbie Tower on the view from ...
MARCO ISLAND — Marco area residents have a view in mind for their new entry way that differs from the current plans for the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge and transportation officials say they won’t be able to bridge the gap. The daughter of the deceased Collier judge says she supports all the changes — but don’t touch the name.
Nearly 250 people, predominantly Islanders, joined officials from the Florida Department of Transportation at an open house Wednesday evening on Marco to share the design and construction schedule for the stimulus project that will add another two-lane span to the existing two-lane span of the Jolley Bridge.
It will also widen Collier Boulevard to allow two lanes coming on and off the bridge with the hopes of increasing capacity and minimizing common traffic back-ups.
City Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Milk, City Manager Steve Thompson and members of the city beautification committee initially questioned the height and design of the new span’s railing, which would change the view to Marco. Those concerns seemed to weigh heavy on the minds of many attendees at the open house as well.
“You only have one chance to do this right,” said Keith Dameron of Marco.
Other issues discussed for the $28 million project, which includes $25.5 million for construction and about $2.5 million for inspection and project management, included when and if there would be a new “Welcome to Marco” sign and the lack of fishing piers to replace the existing piers. It will be up to the city to replace and find the proper location for the welcome sign, reported the landscape contractors with Wilson-Miller. It’s not part of the stimulus project, they said.
A popular element and what FDOT Spokeswoman Debbie Tower said was the main point of constructing the project — increased capacity. Currently traffic is backed up coming onto Marco Island from the bridge, and while this condition may exist to some extent in the future, residents were most pleased to hear that Collier Boulevard and the bridge would soon be contiguously two lanes.
Tower assured this reporter that there were no plans for the state to ever privatize or toll the bridge as the stimulus dollars would not need to be recouped.
Tower said she understood the concerns about the view to Marco and effecting its current “wow-factor,” but didn’t think it would have a dramatic negative effect and said it couldn’t be changed now.
The current bridge’s railing is a three-foot tall cement block wall on both sides of the bridge. This will remain. The new span will have a new pedestrian walkway with a protective block on the outside that is taller than the current bridge. It will be a cement wall base that is 42 inches, plus a one-foot, 10-inch aluminum railing. Also, on the traffic-side of that pedestrian railing will be another 42-inch cement wall.
Dameron said he thought the design would create a tunnel-effect and was greatly concerned for the impact it could have on the Island aesthetically and even economically as many people say the view is what brought people to buy property on the Island.
“It’s the most stupid thing I’ve ever seen,” said Island architect Herb Savage of the railing design.
Tower and spokeswoman Connie Deane of the Collier County Transportation Department both agreed the pedestrian walkway could not be changed at this point.
Deane reported that the pedestrian walkway was an already approved plan by the Metropolitan Planning Organization as part of the county’s trails and pathways system.
Tower said with the contractors, Johnson Brothers and FIGG, already finishing the design, ordering materials and beginning the work, it would be too costly and time-consuming to change the design. Furthermore, the height of the railing is up to current FDOT safety requirements, she said.
The construction’s impact on traffic flow was also a common question and Tower said building the bridge first from barges during the tourist season was intentional so as to have the least impact on traffic along Collier Boulevard.
Construction has started and is to be complete in Nov. 2011. It must be complete per federal stimulus dollar requirements by Spring 2012.
One Marco woman liked everything about the new bridge design — as long as they didn’t change the bridge’s name. June Jolley Dyches, 73, is the daughter of Seward Stokey Jolley, more commonly known as Collier County Judge S.S. Jolley.
“The Legislature dedicated the bridge to my father, who was an early pioneer in the 1930s, 40s and 50s in Collier County. Maintain the name of the person who deserved it,” Jolley-Dyches pleaded.
She hopes the suggestion of Councilman Wayne Waldack at a recent council meeting to possibly rename the bridge is not considered.
“My father was always a man of the people. It would be a tragedy if they changed it,” Jolley-Dyches added.