Lee County commissioners approve three bridge rebuilds
A trio of bridges in Lee County, Big Carlos Pass Bridge, Cape Coral Bridge, and Sanibel Causeway, were recently approved for construction improvements beginning this year.
The Big Carlos Pass Bridge, which connects the south end of Fort Myers Beach to Lover’s Key on Estero Boulevard, was approved for $90.8 million of construction. It will be entirely replaced and the new bridge will feature pedestrian and bicycle lanes, a fishing pier, and travel lanes in both directions. It will have an expected lifespan of 75 years.
The project also includes installation of new infrastructure for Lee County Utilities and Bonita Springs Utilities. The old bridge will be turned into an artificial reef.
Commissioner Mike Greenwell supports replacing the bridge stating lifespan as reasoning. He reasons “The ability to have something for that long that we don’t have to redo in 35 years seems to make the most sense to me”.
Both spans of the Cape Coral Bridge will be replaced gaining an additional 40-plus years of useful life costing $20 million. Plans to add a third lane were dismissed because the Florida Department of Transportation’s design requirements would have made the remodeling far too costly. Construction will begin in 2027 and the bridge will remain open throughout construction.
Although this cost seems daunting, Commissioner Kevin Ruane is confident that the benefits outweigh the costs. “Looking at the additional life expectancy we will get out of it, the more resiliency, and honestly we’re going bonded giving us the benefit of spreading 20 million over 30 years so I think the cost would be easy to offset,” he said.
The Sanibel Causeway had already been approved for recreational improvements like picnic areas, restrooms, and designated parking prior to the catastrophic damage that resulted from Hurricane Ian. As a result of the damage, the Florida Department of Transportation completed temporary repairs and contracted permanent repairs. The Lee Board of Count Commissioners have decided to incorporate the recreational improvements into the plan for damage repairs. The Federal Highway administration would fund $239.3 million of the repairs, leaving Lee County responsible for $46.1 million worth of repairs and $5.6 million for the recreational amenities.
Ruane supports repairing the causeway to withstand future disasters saying “given what we just went through, isn’t that the way to go, add more resiliency.”
Lee County’s financial responsibility for all three bridge repairs will be $162.5 million and the total cost of repairs will be $401.8 million.
To watch the board’s workshop on the Cape Coral Bridge and Sanibel Causeway, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LK6vdjmwb7M.
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