Cyclist, pedestrian safety near Estero High School a priority for village officials

Thaddeus Mast
Naples Daily News
Looking east across U.S. 41 in Estero, with Williams Road to the right, Via Coconut Point in the middle background, and Estero High School in the back. Williams Road is set to get a $4.1 million upgrade in bicycle and pedestrian paths in the coming years.

A $4.1 million investment in Estero roads and sidewalks could add another cyclist and pedestrian-friendly road to the growing network of multi-use paths in the village.

Estero Village Council commended a plan to completely rework the sidewalks and road bike paths on Williams Road stretching from the roundabout at Via Coconut Point to Three Oaks Parkway. The road runs along the south side of Estero High School.

The plan, presented to council at a Wednesday meeting, would have an 8-foot-wide pedestrian sidewalk on the north side of the street. Currently, a 5-foot-wide path sits close to the roadway, which can cause safety concerns, said David Willems, public works director. The new plan will put the sidewalk on the far side of a drainage swale to separate pedestrians from traffic.

“It’s just much better to walk,” Willems said.

Nearby road plans:Roundabout in the works for Estero High School and Williams Road

Village schools:Estero elementary, middle school approved; construction to begin later this year

A multi-use path for cyclists and pedestrians would meander along the south side of the road. There are no homes and driveways to bisect the 12-foot-wide path, and planners want to use the extra space to create a more interesting pathway.

The design calls for two bike lanes one the street — each 7-feet wide. One section of road west of the high school will need to be widened, but most of the street is wide enough to simply repaint the shoulder stripes, said Brent Addison of Banks Engineering.

Design plans show the pedestrian and bicycle path upgrades to Williams Road. The top photo stretches from the west edge of Estero High School past two entrances while the bottom photo shows the intersection with River Ranch Road, complete with planned roundabout.

New street lighting, landscaping and drainage systems would be included in the updated pedestrian plan.

Councilor Jon McLain, a self-proclaimed cyclist in the Estero area, said that “you’ll get some bikers riding up and down that road,” but he said he wasn’t sure the multi-use path would see much use.

Willems said the path would likely become a destination for residents interested in a relaxing stroll on safe, attractive walkways. The paths would connect with other recently improved walkways along Three Oaks Parkway, Coconut Road and Via Coconut Point to create a loop for cyclists and pedestrians.

“Those are all really nice paths, and I don’t think you’re going to have that in very many locations,” Willems said.

This plan is much larger than what was originally envisioned last year. The village expected the project to cost less than $2 million, according to last year’s budget. But larger pathways and ballooning construction costs pushed the price up, Willems said.

A roundabout at the intersection of Williams and River Ranch Roads meant to ease traffic backups around Estero High School is included in a River Ranch Road overhaul project.

Village Council hasn’t officially approved the plan, which will come up for a vote at a later meeting. Construction won’t begin for at least one year, he said.

The Williams Road improvements will coincide with expanded pathways for River Ranch Road, which connects north to Corkscrew Road and is the main entrance to the Estero High School. The village set aside $4.5 million for updated drainage, roadway and bike and pedestrian paths along the street. It is still in the planning phase.

The two roads will meet in a roundabout meant to ease the area’s traffic burden. Pathways 6- to 8-feet wide will run along either side of River Ranch Road, but it will not have street bike paths.

Thaddeus Mast is a south Lee County reporter for the Naples Daily News and The Banner. Support his work by subscribing to our local news organization. Find him on Twitter as @thaddeusmast.