MARCO ISLAND — The irony didn't go unnoticed. The dedication ceremony for the new span of the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge to Marco Island, built to relieve the traffic bottleneck to and from the island, temporarily re-created the conditions it was meant to alleviate.
Some 100 dignitaries, politicians and Marco residents gathered Saturday at the south end of the recently completed $29 million span to cut a ribbon, offer brief remarks and unveil a plaque to the late Mike Minozzi, who was instrumental in making the project a reality.
Vehicles that used to squeeze from the two Collier Boulevard lanes approaching Marco Island into just one lane to cross the bridge now have an easier drive. Approaching the bridge Saturday morning, though, brought déjà vu for anyone who has regularly made the crossing.
Traffic cones and flagmen brought back what was for years a daily traffic jam, flowing onto the island in the morning and off in the afternoon, and then for more than a year during construction as the second two-lane span took shape next to, and slightly higher than, the original two-lane Jolley Bridge.
After the presentation of colors and Pledge of Allegiance came opening remarks from officials, including Marco Island Council Chairman Jerry Gibson and William Trotter, also a member of the City Council and Metropolitan Planning Organization, the countywide transportation planning agency.
"This is a testament to government working together," Trotter said. "The Collier MPO, the Marco City Council, and the state DOT made this happen, and without having to have a toll bridge."
Lynn Minozzi unveiled a plaque commemorating the work of her late husband, Mike Minozzi, in making the day's festivities possible. Collier Commissioner Donna Fiala said that, without Mike Minozzi's untiring efforts, it never would have happened.
"I started working with Mike on the MPO 11 years ago," she said. "We never left a meeting without Mike saying 'about the bridge.' It's because of Mike the bridge made it to the top of the (priority) list," she said, hugging Lynn Minozzi.
Trotter, who took over Minozzi's work and also was instrumental in getting the second span approved, noted it came about because the project was "shovel-ready" when federal stimulus money became available.
This point was underscored by a dozen sign-carrying members of the Democratic Party of Collier County. They displayed banners saying: "Thank you President Obama for our bridge – Mack voted no," and "Obama's stimulus $$$ = jobs and bridges."
"Right wing ideology doesn't build bridges," group member Jerry Stinson said.
"We need to have more jobs, not budget cuts," added Randon Randolph.
The group brought a live donkey along to help make their point.
The added span, Trotter said, provides many benefits to Marco Island residents, most notably providing a Category 5 hurricane-rated evacuation route.
Completed ahead of schedule and within the deadline for stimulus projects, the span's $29 million cost was shared by federal, state, and Collier County governments. The parallel span opened to traffic Oct. 5.