DOT set to finish U.S. 41 widening

— for your information

What: U.S. 41 widening program

Date: Thursday, Jan. 6

Time: 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Place: Estero Community Park

Construction is set to begin this month on the final stage of the U.S. 41 reconstruction project, which will widen the thoroughfare to six lanes from Corkscrew Road to San Carlos Park.

The $14.2-million project is expected to take two-and-a-half years to complete, with anticipated completion in summer 2013. This is the final stretch of the longtime initiative to take U.S. 41 to six lanes all the way from the Caloosahatchee River Bridge in downtown Fort Myers to State Road 951 in Collier County.

“This project has been a longtime priority for the Estero community, for Lee County and for the Florida Department of Transportation,” said FDOT spokesperson Debbie Tower. “We are very pleased to be starting construction at the end of January.”

Business owners and residents along this stretch of U.S. 41 are encouraged to attend an informational program on Thursday at Estero Community Park, where they may drop in anytime from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. to view the plans and discuss concerns. The FDOT project team and representatives from Russell Engineering will be available to answer questions and discuss placement of access signs that will be used to direct customers to affected businesses and restaurants during the construction process.

“We want to work with the business owners,” Tower said. “This is an opportunity to speak one-on-one with the project team and ask very specific questions.”

The scope of the project is extensive, with total reconstruction, not merely resurfacing of existing lanes, Tower said. The two-and-a-half-year timeline will include three new travel lanes on both sides, as well as bike lanes and sidewalks. An irrigated median will feature Alexandra and Royal Palms, Crepe and Wax Myrtles and Live Oaks, along with smaller, decorative plants.

The difficulty of this project is increased because it requires a bridge reconstruction, as well as special consideration for the Koreshan State Park historic buildings, many of which sit close to the roadway. An underground buffer called a slurry wall will be used to minimize vibrations during the construction process.

Initial utility work may begin mid-month, but lane closures should not occur until later, Tower said. The first phase will move all traffic to the west side of the roadway while crews build three new northbound lanes. The speed limit will be reduced to 40 miles per hour.

Tower urges local motorists to exercise patience, show courtesy and pay attention at all times.

“We need drivers to become part of our safety team during this project,” she said. “We don’t want to see any accidents, and we know even a small fender bender can back up traffic on U.S. 41 and create delays.”

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