Feature: A Comprehensive Look at Estero’s Transportation Needs

In December, the Estero Economic Excellence Outreach Council (EEEOC) held its second organizational meeting with special guest Dr. Mike Martin, president of Florida Gulf Coast University at FGCU’s Emerging Technology Center. Discussion centered on recruiting experienced businesspeople of Estero to serve as mentors for the university’s rapidly expanding Entrepreneurship Program. However, this is just one objective of the EEEOC. The organization also aims to partner with the Village of Estero, Lee Health and the Southwest Florida development community to implement a Village Center which aligns with the vision of Estero’s residents.

This vision was developed and defined through a series of public workshops and planning meetings which culminated in Village Council adopting a Comprehensive Plan amendment and Land Development Code standards for the Village Center in June 2016. Before the Village’s incorporation, the ECCL started planning for a “Village Center” about six years ago as the region was emerging from the Great Recession. The Village Center’s fruition remains of great importance to the ECCL and will be one of three major initiatives of the newly formed EEEOC.

This month’s feature article focuses on the southern portion of the Village Center, which is emerging as a health and wellness district, anchored by the new Lee He The Village of Estero has undertaken a comprehensive approach to studying all traffic issues within its boundaries and is addressing the most critical needs, starting with major improvements for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians traveling along Estero Parkway. The Village also continues to work with Lee County and the State of Florida to improve roadways not maintained by the Village.

In less than 20 years, the Village’s population is projected to increase from 46,091 permanent and seasonal residents to 73,000. Just beyond Estero’s eastern boundary on Corkscrew Road, more than 5,000 new homes are planned, adding to traffic concerns on Estero’s roadways.

The newly drafted Village of Estero Comprehensive Plan (now in Tallahassee for State review) outlines the Village’s Transportation goals and objectives, emphasizing the need for interconnectivity between residential communities, commercial developments, local parks, recreational facilities and natural amenities. The Comprehensive Plan encourages “complete street” design strategies to provide safe and convenient routes for all modes of transportation.

Who’s Responsible for Road Maintenance in Estero?

The Village has assumed responsibility for maintenance of many roads within its boundaries; however, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) maintains Interstate 75 and U.S. 41, and the Lee County Department of Transportation (LDOT) continues to maintain these major thoroughfares:

  • Ben Hill Griffin Parkway
  • Corkscrew Road
  • Estero Parkway extension (Don Eslick Bridge)
  • Imperial Parkway
  • Three Oaks Parkway

Roadways within gated communities and any other roads not listed above or in the chart below are private roads and are not maintained by the Village. The Village of Estero is fully responsible for maintaining the following roadways within its boundaries:

Armada Ct Caralee Ave Palmetto Ter Royal Pine Dr
Broadway East Corkscrew Village Ln Park Pl Sandy Ln
Broadway West County Road Pine Tree Ln See See St
Chairing Cross Cir Estero Pkwy Poinciana Ave Spring Creek Dr
Coconut Dr Highlands Ave Porthole Ct Trailside Dr
Coconut Road Lords Way River Ranch Rd Via Coconut Point

FGCU’s Infrastructure Inventory

Before the Village assumed responsibility for the above listed roadways, the Village commissioned Florida Gulf Coast University to undertake an Estero Infrastructure Inventory. Findings were published in January 2016. Three roads were found to be in need of immediate attention for repaving: Estero Parkway, Poinciana Avenue and Trailside Drive.

Thirteen other roadways in Estero were not given the “immediate attention” designation but were placed on a list for reevaluation in two-to-three years (2018-19). The most distressed of these roads were Broadway Avenue and Charing Crossing Circle.

Village of Estero Area Wide Traffic Study

In early 2017, the Village of Estero contracted with Kimley-Horn and Associates to conduct a comprehensive traffic study of all roadways within Estero’s boundaries. Kimley-Horn collected traffic data in February to capture peak-season volumes. This study determined that several intersections within the Village are currently operating below an acceptable standard of service during the morning and evening peak hours for traffic. Additionally, the study offered an analysis of future roadway conditions using methodology to identify future travel demand, projected operating conditions and potential improvements.

On east Corkscrew Road, a traffic signal has recently been installed at the entrance to Bella Terra, helping these residents to safely exit their community and potentially helping to provide traffic gaps for safe egress of other communities “downstream” to the west.

The Kimley-Horn study also factored in the following transportation improvements planned within the next 10 years:

  • FDOT improvements to the I-75 interchange with Corkscrew Road
  • Signalization of Corkscrew Road & Corkscrew Woodlands Blvd.
  • Signalization of U.S. 41 & Pelican Sound Drive
  • Intersection improvements at U.S. 41 & Estero Parkway
  • Additional turn lanes on U.S. 41 and Williams Road

The study also identified several “failing movements or approaches” which are anticipated with increases in future traffic. Recommended improvements include:

  • Median storage at Corkscrew Road & Cypress Shadows Blvd.
  • Turn lane extension at Corkscrew Road & Ben Hill Griffin
  • Interim safety improvements at Corkscrew Road & Corkscrew Woodlands Blvd.
  • Turn lane extension at Corkscrew Road & Three Oaks Parkway
  • Retime signals at intersections at U.S. 41 & Corkscrew Road and U.S. 41 & Estero Parkway
  • Additional turn lanes at U.S. 41 & Williams Road
  • Signalization of U.S. 41 & Fountain Lakes Blvd.
  • Retime signal at Three Oaks Parkway & Coconut Road

Lee County’s ‘Corkscrew Road’ Study

Lee County recently released preliminary findings from its Environmental Enhancement Preservation Communities Overlay (EEPCO) Study (aka. “Corkscrew Road Study”). The objectives of this study were to identify needed transportation improvements, to identify costs and timing of those improvements, and to assess the proportionate fair-share obligations of new residential developments planned along Corkscrew Road east of Estero’s boundary. This study indicates Corkscrew Road needs to be expanded to six lanes from Ben Hill Griffin Parkway to Grande Oak Way and to four lanes from Grand Oak Way to Alico Road. Lee County’s five-year Capital Plan includes making the entire stretch from Ben Hill Griffin to Alico Road four lanes, but only $2.9 million of the estimated $51 million needed for his project has been budgeted; the remaining $48 million remains unfunded.

Village of Estero Capital Improvement Plan

The Village has identified Estero Parkway as its highest priority transportation project. Planned improvements include roadway resurfacing, bicycle and pedestrian pathways, landscaping and street lighting. The Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for fiscal year 2017-18 designates about $3.14 million for Estero Parkway from a total Capital Program budget of $5.84 million. Landscaping of Estero Parkway is planned for fiscal year 2018-19.

The Capital Program for FY 2017-18 budgets another $497,300 for other transportation projects within the Village. The CIP also calls for a Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan to be developed and implemented for the safety, utility and enjoyment of non-motorized travel.

The total cost of transportation projects identified in the draft Comprehensive Plan is $23.5 million. Of that, $16.6 million has been budgeted through fiscal year 2021-22.

Planned Transportation Improvements

The following major transportation projects have been included in the Village’s five-year plan:

  • Estero Parkway Improvements and landscaping
  • Improvements to Broadway Avenue
  • Williams Road Improvements including widening
  • River Ranch Road sidewalks
  • Three Oaks Parkway landscaping from Estero Parkway to Williams Road
  • S. 41 improvements at Estero Parkway, Coconut Road and Williams Road
  • “Entering Estero” signage
The funds are being accumulated, and priorities are being set by Village Council.
  • Landscaping and turn lane improvements on Ben Hill Griffin Parkway

Major transportation projects to be funded by FDOT include:

  • Interim improvements (additional turn lanes) for the I-75 interchange at Corkscrew Road, scheduled for spring 2019
  • Distinctly “Estero” landscaping of the U.S. 41 median, scheduled for summer 2018

Prioritization of Transportation Projects

Estero Parkway became the Village’s first major transportation project as a result of inherited funds from Lee County for resurfacing and sidewalk additions, explained Village Manager Steve Sarkozy. Village Council is still determining details of the design. There will be three design phases leading up to one construction phase, said Estero Village Council representative Jon McLain, who is overseeing this project.

Prioritization of other transportation projects within the Village will be determined by (1) findings and recommendations of the Area-Wide Traffic Study, (2) needs arising from new development and (3) projects necessitated by the Village’s improvement of stormwater systems, said Village Manager Sarkozy.

“We have a sufficient amount of money we have been accumulating for our future capital needs,” added Finance Director Lisa Roberson. “The funds are being accumulated, and priorities are being set by Village Council.”

In the coming year, the ECCL Transportation Committee plans to make recommendations to Council regarding the order in which transportation projects should be undertaken.

“The goal of the Transportation Committee is to advocate for improvements in all forms of transportation and to keep the community informed of progress,” said ECCL Transportation Director Bob King. “We will solicit input from member communities on their concerns. We will work with the agencies responsible for the roadways — be they federal, state or local — to make the concerns of the community known.”

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