Reason to be Jolley: Redesign to new Marco bridge to save views

— Marco Island resident Keith Dameron describes his daily trips over the current Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge as offering an “awesome, inspiring and emotionally-pleasing 180 degree view of our island paradise.”

Dameron is among several people who feared losing this welcoming feature due to the new $28-million bridge, complete with view-obstructive traffic and pedestrian barriers.

The cherished views may be saved, Marco Island City Councilman Bill Trotter announced late on Monday night.

A new proposal for the bridge expansion’s railing design was developed, Trotter said, with the help of the Florida Department of Transportation and the design/build team, Johnson Bros. and FIGG.

“I was surprised. I thought it was going to be cost-prohibitive. It’s almost too good to be true,” said Trotter, who is also chairman of the Collier County Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The cost differential was relatively minor at about $120,000, but the aesthetics and its impacts are significant, he added.

Dameron said he was thrilled with the new developments.

Transportation officials worked since February to develop the new design, which will include shorter solid concrete walls and additional railings to maintain pedestrian and traffic safety while also increasing visibility compared to the original plan.

After returning from the Jan. 13 pre-construction public information meeting on Marco and learning about several residents’ and city officials’ concerns with an obstructed view from the new bridge being built along side the existing bridge, FDOT spokeswoman Debbie Tower said the importance became evident and reconsideration was then made.

“Being able to see Goodland to the left, to Isles of Capri on the right, and everything in between, makes this spectacular view the welcome mat to Marco Island,” Dameron said.

The view to the left when coming to Marco Island will still be somewhat obstructed by the old bridge, which will be for traveling off the Island, he added, but “it’s a vast improvement.”

Due, in-part, to more stringent FDOT crash-testing and pedestrian safety standards, the concrete wall barriers on the new bridge are taller than the barriers on the existing bridge, Tower said.

“I am so happy and relieved that so many people have joined in the effort to save the view,” Dameron said.

The new proposal is the only alternative on the table, Trotter said.

Council needs to decide whether to approve the plan in May to keep the project on schedule.

Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Milk reported that the increased cost for the new design can come out of the landscaping budget for the project, which is already set aside.

Without having to spend any city money at this time, Trotter said it was a no-brainer for him to support and that additional landscaping and the linear path can be added later.

FDOT Director Johnny Limbaugh, of Southwest Florida District 1, will present more details on the new design at a meeting with City Council scheduled at 5:30 p.m. on May 17 in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.

“This is just more testimony to how well they (FDOT) are working with us these days,” Trotter said.

“Since you seem to be working so well with them, can you (Trotter) get us a fishing pier?” Chairman Frank Recker asked on Monday night.

The piers, ruined during Hurricane Wilma in 2004 and removed when the expansion project began, are not part of the current construction.

Because matching funds are required and agreements need to be made to maintain what would become the city-side and county-side piers, getting the fishing amenity back may be trickier, Trotter replied.

Perhaps after the expansion project is complete in late 2011, he said.

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