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Safety Committee to offer recommendations

March 20, 2013
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Town of Fort Myers Beach Public Safety Committee is making strides in protecting the general public from harm and is vying to continue to do so with more suggested implementations and public education.

Town Council will hear Safety Committee members Barb Mezeske and Chairman Bruce Butcher make additional recommendations and show a completed brochure during its 9 a.m. meeting on Monday, April 1.

The Town committee, which met last Thursday morning, has been active in the advisement of recently accomplished tasks around the island. Among them are excessive signage removed from the roadway, pedestrian aware banners above the roadway, shielded lights placed at three locations, crosswalk relocation at three sites to be better aligned with lighting from light poles, a new crosswalk at Laguna Shores area, repainted crosswalks and a recently installed rapid rectangular flashing beacon and median refuge at the south end of Santini Marina Plaza across from Estero Beach & Tennis Club.

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A rapid rectangular flashing beacon, crosswalk and median refuge has been installed at the south end of Santini Marina Plaza across from Estero Beach & Tennis Club to make drivers more aware of people who want to cross the street. The sign has a flashing beacon on it that is activated when pushing a button on the side of the sign post.

"We should encourage people to use crosswalks," said Butcher. "Unfortunately, people have the attitude that they are empowered to randomly cross the street."

Work has begun at the Holiday Inn area to install another RRFB. A sidewalk and ADA required platform bases have been constructed there and, once the beacons arrive, they will be assembled and another push-button station will be made available to alert drivers to stop for people who want to cross the boulevard. Cost for each location is roughly $25,000 and being paid for by a coffer put aside by both County and Town.

"We have the material ready, and the concrete work has all been completed," said Lee County Department of Transportation's Rob Phelan. "We are waiting for the RRFBs to arrive. The last update I heard was still 6-8 weeks out. What we will do in the meantime is put the median refuge up and temporary signs for now."

Side street crosswalk markings are also being done.

"We really feel that that is going to have a significant improvement, because while we focus a lot on accidents that happen on Estero Boulevard, there are as many or more crashes involving people crossing side streets," said Phelan.

A public education brochure will also be shown to Council members. Mezeske has spearheaded this project, which involves a six-page tri-fold pamphlet. She would like to print 10,000 brochures to start. They will be distributed to Town Hall, Beach Chamber office, Times Square kiosk, condo associations and hotels, bicycle shops, RV parks, local newspaper offices and will be available for perusal on the Town website.

"We are trying to educate," she said.

The brochure offers a "Be Safe, Be Seen, Be Smart" slogan and includes informational points on pedestrians, bicyclists, motor vehicles, trolley etiquette and specifics about the island. More information on the brochure will be printed once/if Council approves it.

A seasonal speed limit was discussed again. Committee members are pushing to lower the high-rise end (Lanark Street to Buccaneer Drive) to 30 MPH, but a statutory law may prohibit them from doing more than just talking about it.

Police and Fire ex-officio members of the committee believe speed is really not the issue regarding accidents. Lee DOT will be conducting traffic and speed counts in the next two weeks at an undisclosed place on the south end of the island. A study will take place thereafter.

It was reported that now an annual average of daily traffic ranges from 9,750 vehicles from Lenell Avenue to Buccaneer Drive to 19,800 vehicles in the Times Square area.

"We'll have information that shows average speed, high speed and low speed," said Phelan. "It'll collect data 24 hours a day for two days. There is a lot of good information that comes out of one of these studies."

With the lighting and crosswalk issues being tackled, hopefully the vehicle versus pedestrian accidents will lessen. An additional hour of sunlight during the evening hours due to Daylight Savings Time also helps buoy the incident situation.

Safety committee members expressed concern that a recently held workshop regarding the Estero Improvement Project doesn't seem to address traffic congestion.

"A two-lane roadway only has so much capacity," said Phelan.

Committee members will also recommend methods to try to implement sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides of the street throughout the island, even the 50-foot right-of-way regions known as the core area and civic complex. Those methods include traffic circles, minimizing left turns, median strips along the roadway, more RRFBs and continued improved lighting.

The committee will have a follow-up meeting on Thursday, March 21 (9 a.m.) to brush up on their recommendations before the April 1 meeting. It will then meet at its regular time, which is the second Wednesday of the month at 9 a.m. at Town Hall.



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