EVALUATION AND APPRAISAL OF THE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
ISSUE: ESTERO BOULEVARD entire length: The Comprehensive Plan established the following vision for the future: "Estero Boulevard has become the premier public space on the island, with a strong sense of place . . . pedestrians now cross safely and many people use the expanded fleet of trolleys to move around the island." There continues to be a strong consensus to make Estero Boulevard more friendly to pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit and to make it more beautiful as well. Equally important would be burying utility lines to protect them from high winds and stopping the frequent "ponding" of rainfall that has nowhere to flow. However, there is still no consensus about how to pay for these improvements, or how they might be made in a logical sequence over ten or twenty years.
Background: The 2000 Estero Boulevard Streetscape Master Plan projected a total cost of $20$30 million to carry out all of its proposed improvements to Estero Boulevard (including placing power lines underground). This figure is well beyond the ability of the town to finance at current levels of taxation. One option had been to place tolls on the bridges and use a large portion of the toll revenues for pedestrian and transit improvements within the town, many of which are detailed in the streetscape plan. Unless the community's resistance to tolling abates, another revenue source will have to be found or the streetscape improvements will have to be dramatically scaled back. One potential funding source is Lee County, which currently owns and maintains Estero Boulevard, but the county's priorities may be different than those of local residents. Before Lee County hires engineers to design actual improvements, the town needs to decide on the basic form they will take so that the town's livability and transportation goals will be carried out rather than being ignored.
ISSUE: ESTERO BOULEVARD Sky Bridge area: The most congested segment of Estero Boulevard is near Times Square, and there is never a shortage of ideas on what to do about it. Many were described in the transportation element of the Comprehensive Plan, but this year there are two entirely new ideas. The town is studying reopening Center Street, which is now a public parking lot between Old San Carlos and Estero. The town is also analyzing the potential realignment of Estero from Crescent to the bridge through Seafarers and Helmerich Plaza. Would these alternatives noticeably reduce traffic congestion? How would they affect the surrounding area? Would they be more successful than ideas previously identified? What other alternatives might be possible to reduce traffic congestion while making Fort Myers Beach a better place to live and visit?
Background: The town's Traffic Mitigation Agency is investigating and experimenting with many promising transportation improvements. The TMA and its consulting engineers understand their mission is to find better ways to move traffic. In addition, the town needs to understand how potential transportation improvements would affect the beauty, convenience, and walkability of the town's major streets before it can be decided whether they would be good, bad, or neutral for Fort Myers Beach.
(1) Center Street: Consulting engineers for the town are working on plans to reopen Center Street to carry out a recommendation from the town's Transportation Mitigation Agency. The purpose is to allow a second route from the Sky Bridge for drivers who are traveling to the north end of the island or to Old San Carlos.
(2) Realignment: Due to common property ownership, the realignment of Estero Boulevard is a possibility for the first time. Rather than waiting to see if the landowners propose a realignment plan of their own, the town should take this opportunity to evaluate various alternatives, perhaps identifying one or more potential designs that respond to the varied public and private interests that would be affected.