NAPLES — Traveling along scenic U.S. 41 East may get safer, both for animals and motorists.
The Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) is preparing an environmental study for proposed safety improvements on a 32.3-mile stretch along U.S. 41 from State Road 29 to the Collier-Dade county line.
“I’m glad to see that it’s finally coming up,” said Joe Bonness, co-president of the Naples Pathways Coalition. “This is something that has been needed for a long time.”
DOT is planning to resurface and widen the existing 2-foot roadway shoulders to 4-foot shoulders on each side of the road and replace the guardrail. The project will enhance safety and improve roadway shoulders, which also will enhance safety for bicyclists, DOT spokeswoman Debbie Tower said.
The environmental study is slated for completion by late fall 2011. Cost for the study is $210,000.
The construction project is scheduled to begin in early 2012 and cost $6.8 million.
Bonness, chairman of the Pathways Advisory Committee for the Collier Metropolitan Planning Organization, supports the project.
Widening paved shoulders is a big safety factor for motorists and bicyclists, plus fishermen, Bonness said.
There won’t be an environmental impact, he said. Instead, the additional shoulder will help push wildlife farther from the road and make it easier for motorists to spot animals.
DOT developed the project after reviewing the existing conditions on U.S. 41 and speaking with the bicycle and pedestrian communities in Collier County, Tower said.
State roadways often have 4-foot paved shoulders.
“We are pleased to add two feet to the existing two-foot paved shoulders,” Tower said.
By the numbers
DOT’s annual average daily traffic report shows that in 2010, 2,600 vehicles traveled on U.S. 41 east of S.R. 29 and 2,800 vehicles traveled on U.S. 41, immediately west of S.R. 29.
According to traffic counts for 2010 in DOT’s annual average daily traffic report, 2,600 vehicles traveled on U.S. 41 east of S.R. 29 and 2,800 vehicles traveled on U.S. 41, immediately west of S.R. 29.
According to Collier County Sheriff’s Office data, from Jan. 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2010, deputies responded to a total of 137 vehicle accidents on U.S. 41 East between S.R. 29 and the county line.
The Sheriff’s Office didn’t work any accidents involving bicyclists, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kristi Lester said.
There are 41 bridges and two box culverts along the roadway. Proposed guardrail improvements include replacing the existing guardrail along the north and south approaches to the bridge structures.
Guardrails along the south side of the bridges will be extended, as necessary, to meet safety requirements, according to a prepared DOT statement.
All improvements will be constructed within existing DOT rights of way.
Judy Gillan, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman, echoed Bonness about the proposed work having minimal effects on fish and wildlife.
By the numbers
Collier County Sheriff’s Office data shows that from Jan. 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2010, deputies responded to a total of 137 vehicle accidents on U.S. 41 East between S.R. 29 and the county line.
“We appreciate the opportunity to provide input on highway design and the conservation of fish and wildlife resources,” Gillan said.
Both the National Park Service and Miccosukee tribe of Florida also support this project.
Bob DeGross, a spokesman for the National Park Service, said he isn’t concerned about the proposed improvements because a road already exists.
This project is separate from the Roadside Animal Detection System project, Tower said.
The detection system project, which will install warnings for panthers and other animals on U.S. 41 in the area of Turner River Road, is scheduled to start in the fall, she said.
DOT doesn’t anticipate a need for a public meeting for the proposed safety improvements on U.S. 41 East between S.R. 29 and the county line.
So far, DOT officials have received comments from people requesting more information on the project and from Defenders of Wildlife asking about the widening of shoulders.
DOT is interested in public comment. To comment, contact DOT project manager Brooke Botterill at email@example.com.