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Coronavirus has reduced traffic, FDOT looking to speed up Collier project

Patrick Riley
Marco Eagle
Light traffic over the S.S. Jolley Bridge is pictured on Wednesday, April 1, 2020, in Marco Island.

A statewide effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus means more and more employees in Florida are working from home and residents are scaling back their nonessential trips outside. 

It also means fewer cars on Florida's roads, and state transportation officials are trying to take advantage of the reduced traffic.

The Florida Department of Transportation announced last week that it would be speeding up "critical infrastructure projects" worth $2.1 billion across the state, including improvements along Collier Boulevard. 

“The Governor understands that Florida’s transportation system is the backbone of our economy and FDOT is proud to accelerate projects, which will help expedite goods to market and provide much needed jobs throughout the state,” FDOT Secretary Kevin J. Thibault said in a news release.

“Safety is our top priority, so we will continue to ensure that employees have the sanitation supplies needed to follow the guidance from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and work with our industry partners to implement these same precautions to keep workers safe and healthy,” he added.

More:Marco Island announces beach access won't reopen following council vote to reopen it

After an initial review of all pending construction projects across FDOT's districts, including the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, the transportation officials identified a slew of projects to accelerate, according to the release. 

In Collier that means, paving, widening and signal upgrades along Collier Boulevard, south of U.S. 41 East, will be accelerated by 4 weeks.

The $4.7 million project that includes resurfacing of Collier Boulevard from Fiddler's Creek to the S.S. Jolley Bridge is now expected to be done by midsummer instead of the later part of the summer or early fall, said FDOT District 1 spokesman Zachary Burch.

More:Coronavirus: What's closed on Marco Island?

"The paving should start later this month," he said.

The road, which is important because it is a hurricane evacuation route and the main thoroughfare to and from Marco Island, "had gotten really wavy," a concern especially for trucks, said Burch, adding that the undulations are unusual because they run across the road.

"The way it happened is unusual," because normally vehicle tires depress the road the other way, he said. The thinking goes that water flowing underneath the road may have "compromised" the road bed. 

"Correcting that waving, undulating pavement is a major improvement," Burch said.

More:State looking at Old 41 Road; improvements possible south of Bonita Beach Road

And:FDOT: Corkscrew Road interchange construction in Estero to begin today

He stressed that the road is not in danger of washing away and that it is a "slow process" that happens over time. Transportation officials would've likely resurfaced it soon anyway, but now it will be fixed even earlier.

"It'll get done sooner than what we were thinking," he said.

Aside from resurfacing, crews will replace and upgrade traffic and pedestrian signals at the Collier Boulevard/Mainsail Drive and Collier/Capri Boulevard intersections.

The project also includes widening and extending turn lanes at the intersection of Collier and Capri boulevards.

Connect with the reporter at patrick.riley@naplesnews.com or on Twitter @PatJRiley.