After about two years of back and forth, Lee County Commissioners agreed on Tuesday to Bonita Springs’ request to widen another mile of Bonita Beach Road ahead of schedule.
Old 41 Road to Imperial Street, fronting Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track and the proposed Lowe’s, will be widened to six lanes.
The $7.5 million project will be split between the city and the county, with the county borrowing $3.75 million from itself to pay its share.
Bids have yet to go out, but Lee County’s transportation planning manager, Dave Loveland, said he anticipated ground could break in the first quarter of 2011 and may take up to two years to complete.
It’s a huge accomplishment for Bonita Springs, said Mayor Ben Nelson.
“Anybody who commutes on this road knows all the development that is closest to coming to fulfillment is between Old 41 and the interstate,” Nelson said. “Plus it’s an access road to Bonita Beach and to I-75.”
Bonita Springs has, for at least two years, tried to convince the county that it is ready to move ahead with the plan originally slated for 2012-2013.
“We proved we have the money and they kept telling us we didn’t” Nelson said. “We kept after them because it was so important.”
The county completed widening between Interstate 75 and Imperial Street. Other phases include widening east of I-75 to Bonita Grande Drive and continuing west of U.S. 41 to Vanderbilt Drive. Though Loveland said there may be a move to stop the widening at U.S. 41 because acquiring the right of way could prove too complicated.
Additionally, Lee County agreed to an interlocal agreement with Bonita for beach renourishment on the northern end of Little Hickory Island.
The state would pay for about a third of the $1 million project. The remaining cost would be shared by the county at 55 percent and the city at 44 percent.
In 1996, two groins were installed near Big Hickory Pass with sand infill along 4,100 feet of the beach. More sand was replaced in 2004 with expectations that it would be done again in 2010 or 2011.
Nelson said the city doesn’t have the money now and it would need to develop a plan for determining public and private interest and who should fund renourishment on an on-going basis.
Also, the Six Mile Cypress public safety building will soon get its power from the sun. Commissioners agreed to the final requirement before a new solar panel project could go live, allowing Florida Power & Light Co. access to the panels in case of an emergency.
It’s Lee County’s first project using solar panels installed on top of the building to move almost entirely off the electric grid.
On a cloudless day, panels will generate 54,000 watts, enough to power 10 homes, said Rich Beck, facilities director.
If the new panels creates more energy than needed, the county will get a credit from Florida Power & Light. A refund is unlikely, he said, because the building houses a sheriff’s office and emergency medical services – a 24 hour operation.
The $326,000 project was paid for with grants funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Beck said there are no current plans to put more buildings on solar power, but if more grants become available that could change.