At its monthly meeting last Wednesday, the Fort Myers Beach Public Safety Committee approved specific designs along the Estero Boulevard corridor and Town roads to improve the health, safety and welfare for residents and visitors of the island.
The future implemented designs will act as speed-calming measures as well as educational elements in hopes of reducing traffic incidents and fatalities along the main boulevard and other island roads.
Starting Thursday, Dec. 20, officials said two radar speed trailers will be positioned to notify drivers of their speed when they drive past. One will be designated near Fairview Boulevard facing southbound traffic, while the other will be set up by Estrellita Lane for northbound traffic. The portable trailers will be in place and working between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m.
"Portable speed radars are a very effective device," said Lee County Department of Transportation's Rob Phelan. "It may get the people doing 45 (MPH) down to 35. I think that would help the speeding issues quite a bit."
Other devices referenced to reduce speed include street markings, speed bumps and median refuge islands.
Committee members Barbara Mezeske and Al Durrett pushed for a seasonal speed limit reduction to 25 MPH on the south end of the island. Town Council had already shot down that idea when the committee was a task force for difficult enforcement reasons. Reasons for dismissal involved erratic varying speed limits on the island, while adding more speed limit signs and advanced warning signs - something (eliminating unnecessary signs) the committee had already agreed to reduce.
"If you provide some other things for the drivers that will help calm them and slow them down in those areas, naturally we may have better success down there," said Town Public Works Director Cathie Lewis. "Perhaps, I think we need to take a little different approach."
In the coming weeks, strategic roadway banners (priced at $400 each) to raise driver awareness will be erected at three locations on the Beach: one by the entrance on the south end; one by the entrance on the north end; and one by the Beach Library. There are banner wires across Estero Boulevard at each location, but they are currently occupied by holiday decorations.
Back in early October, Council approved to lay out a total of $150,000 ($130,000 from County; $30,000 from Town) on these short-term tactical approaches and others, including crosswalk modification and street lighting. Many crosswalks do not have proper lighting, and expectations are in place to realign crosswalks to line up with existing streetlights. Sites at Buccaneer Drive and Red Coconut RV Park were two areas addressed.
"The lighting there does not meet the standard one-foot panel of illumination," said Town Special Projects Supervisor Jean Webb. "We took a look at crosswalks that had the least amount of light on them and looked at different ways we can light them up."
Committee members were assigned to check on pole lights that were not working. Most of them have been replaced.
Crosswalk striping will be applied to all side streets that meet Estero Boulevard. Crosswalks that cross Estero Boulevard will also be restriped.
"We think that will be a big improvement to pedestrian safety," said Phelan.
Median refuge islands and rectangular rapid flashing beacons were discussed for locations near Estero Cove as well as Estero Beach and Tennis Club.
According to Phelan, all crosswalk work should begin in January.
Educational initiatives to improve public safety were discussed during task force meetings. A community outreach program was suggested so that residents and visitors have access to pertinent information. Committee members Mezeske, Bruce Butcher and possibly Toni Scolaro will work on drafting an educational brochure to be distributed to hotels, bike rentals, community shopping centers and condominium associations. Pre-authored brochures may be available to download from Town and Fire Department websites.
"Education is just as important as engineering," said Phelan.
Committee members reviewed public requests. They included bollards (temporary, ground level pedestrian safety signs at various crosswalks) at Connecticut Street, Miramar Street and Virginia Avenue; placing a "Children at Play" sign on Delmar Avenue (approved action; implementation soon); a Laguna Shores crosswalk (part of crosswalk relocation work in January); and proposed blue painting of crosswalks (tabled until next meeting).
Bollards ($400 apiece) are currently being used on the south end of the island near Santini Marina Plaza, but there was a concern listed that over-usage may inevitably lose effectiveness.
The Public Safety Committee was adopted on Aug 20, 2012. Members meet monthly on the second Wednesday of the month at Town Hall.
Committee conducts re-election/ introduces ex officious member
Public Safety Committee Chairman Al Durrett decided to step down from his post, and another election was held.
Bruce Butcher is now chairing the committee, while Barbara Mezeske was voted in as vice chairperson.
Deputy TJ Guetler of the Lee County Sheriff's Office will attend Public Safety Committee meetings and act as an ex officious member. Captain Matt Powell, the west district commander and meeting attendee, introduced him. A member of the Beach Fire Control District should be introduced at the next meeting.
Information you may not know
A question regarding when is it proper to pass a trolley was asked. The answer: when a trolley pulls over to the side or onto a wide shoulder. It is illegal to pass a trolley while the trolley is still in the traffic lane.
To mark a bike path, the designated area needs at least four feet in width. The issue as to why there are no bike lanes on the Beach involves the varying shoulder sizes on Estero Island. While it is legal to bike on a sidewalk (as long as you are not mowing pedestrians down), it is illegal to walk on a designated bike path. At least the beach doesn't have that problem unless you are on the northern one-mile stretch that has designated bike lane markings.