Last week the Florida Department of Transportation made a presentation to the Fort Myers Beach Town Council about the future foot of the bridge design project scheduled to be completed in time with Margaritaville, sometime in the summer/fall of 2023.
The new design is raising a lot of concern due to the multiple Cross walks included in the design with 4 crosswalks on each of the incoming and outgoing traffic lanes at the foot of the bridge.
Many have suggested overpasses, but if you have ever been to Las Vegas, you know what a pain overpasses can be, and really require some way to prevent people from crossing where ever they like, which is the problem we have on the beach now. Most of the traffic backup that occurs is due to pedestrian crossing everywhere and anywhere they want to.
As we look at the image to the below, we can see the footprint of the land at the corner of Fifth and Estero outlined in Blue, showing how this project would fit in the space allowed.
We see incoming vehicles come over the bridge from the top left of the image and there are four crosswalks, one for traffic that is going forward which has another crosswalk immediately in the same flow of traffic, one for traffic that is going right, towards the north end and one for traffic that is coming from the north end of the island with similar crosswalks for the outgoing flow as well.
This could be a traffic nightmare, it also could work but only if pedestrians are forced to use the crosswalks and wait for walk signals before they cross, in order to do that, guardrails would be needed, I don’t know about you but I do not like the images in my minds eye as I think about that.
Bushes and shrubs? They would need to maintained continuously and could end up a possible landscaping fiasco.
Then there is the option of enforcing Jaywalking, do we really see that as our future? I personally do not like the thought of visitors getting $50 jaywalking tickets.
So, what other options are available to us?
We already mentioned overpasses, but I would rather see underpasses, these have their own problems, there would be weather related closings. but the major obstacle being the actual construction of underpasses. Our roads being just above sea level makes the soil under the road, in the water table.
There are still ways to do this, many years ago in Downtown Boston during the Big Dig, they ran into soft muddy earth while trying to submerge the Route 93 Expressway, their solution was to freeze the soft earth and scrapped it a little at a time and then advanced the tunnel pieces slowly, it is costly but doable.
I believe this design as it now sits, will be discussed in depth and will meet with much opposition as is. (In the image above, traffic from the bridge
enters the picture from the bottom right corner.)