Q: I notice that a massive bridge is being built over Alico Road down by U.S. 41. Where is it supposed to go? How much does it cost and who is paying for it?
— Jeff Brown, Bonita Springs
A: That bridge seemingly to nowhere is part of the Metro Parkway extension project, continuing the major Fort Myers highway south from Ben C. Pratt/Six Mile Cypress Parkway to U.S. 41. The six-lane road includes an overpass/interchange at Alico Road.
The cost of the extension is $29.8 million, paid for by federal economic stimulus funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. Florida earmarked an estimated nearly $1.35 billion of the federal stimulus funding for highways and bridges, the Florida Department of Transportation reports.
Concrete bridge beams at the Alico Road overpass were put in place during mostly nighttime work in June. Crews spread concrete on the deck of the overpass in late July.
Originally targeted to be done this February, crews are now aiming for completing the parkway work this fall. The Department of Transportation expects to have the need for one or two more road closures before work ends.
Construction on the Lee County project began three years ago this month, but had at least a six-month delay when the state fired the original contractor in May 2011 for missing deadlines. A new contractor resumed construction in October.
In 2010, a state measure renamed the Metro Parkway Extension as Michael G. Rippe Parkway. Rippe, an FDOT director for this district who died several years ago, did a lot of early preparation work to make the project possible.
"Taking the Metro Extension project in Lee County from concept to near-completion was particularly close to his heart," the FDOT wrote about Rippe.
Q: Are you aware of any places that you can take your old eyeglasses to for cleaning and reissue to folks that need them but can't afford glasses? When I lived up North, I believe the Lions Club or the Kiwanis Club used to have drop-off locations. I have a few pairs along with sunglasses that I would love to donate instead of throwing them away. If not, may have to save them till I visit up North. Thank you for any help.
— Jack Curran, Naples
A: The two international service groups you mention are probably the best places to start, especially the Lions Club, which has focused on work for the blind and visually impaired for more than 80 years.
"The mission of the Naples Lions Club is to serve the medical needs of the community," according to club organizers. "Our primary activity is to fund eye exams, glasses, eye surgery and hearing aids for needy adults and children."
The Lions Clubs in Naples and Marco Island collect thousands of old or unused eyeglasses and hearing aids every year and disperses them in Florida and even abroad where people are in need. The local organizations have provided 165,000 pairs to the Philippines and many other locations worldwide.
The local Lions Clubs have collection boxes for used or unwanted eyeglasses in all area public libraries and in some Walmart stores, said William E. Arthur, president of the Naples Nites Lions Club.
"If you don't see them, ask, 'cause they are there. There's a box at every library," he said.
Donated eyeglasses don't have to necessarily be in good condition.
"Even if they are broken we can salvage parts out of them," Arthur said.
You can also donate glasses by mail to Lions Club International. Package your old eyeglasses and mail them to Lions Clubs International headquarters, Attention: Receiving Department, 300 W. 22nd St., Oak Brook, IL 60523.
Donating glasses can change someone's life — helping a child to read, an adult to get or retain a job, and a senior citizen to maintain independence, the Lions Club notes.
The local Lions also annually sponsor many other vision improvement projects, including two major vision screening programs. One works closely with the Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida in detecting amblyopia, or "lazy eye," at an early age in preschoolers at child care centers in Collier and Lee counties; another checks adults for glaucoma, cataracts and retinal disease.
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"In the Know" is published Mondays and Wednesdays in the Naples Daily News. Find a complete archive of "In the Know" columns at naplesnews.com/intheknow.