Marco Island Florida 

2-lane span for southbound traffic

January 7, 2004

The Marco Island Jude Jolly Bridge will get a two-lane expansion if Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) plans keep to the current design configuration, FDOT spokesman Debbie Tower said Jan. 5.

The existing bridge would be left intact, and its two lanes would be used for northbound traffic leaving the island. A new two-lane span would be built west of the existing bridge, on the Marco Island Yacht Club side. Its two lanes would be used to bring traffic onto the island and would include a pedestrian sidewalk, Tower said.

It's hoped the plan will remedy the late-afternoon backups that are becoming more frequent during peak-season winter months, when the island's population more than doubles.

Residents and visitors might have to wait until 2005 to see any construction work begin, however. The bridge expansion project is the No. 2 priority on the local Metropolitan Planning Organization's unfunded list for Collier County.

Adding a two-lane span to carry southbound traffic would cost $17 million to $20 million, early estimates show.

FDOT officials don't expect to need any land from the Yacht Club to fit the new span onto the island's main entrance.

"We are still early in our design effort," Tower said. "We have done the kind of work that gives us the initial alignment.

Our next step will get us more involved in the determination of what sort of right-of-way needs we'll have. We're hoping we won't need any right of way, but we'll know as we get farther along."

Peak-season traffic backups, which occur when motorists traveling North Collier Boulevard merge from four lanes to two as they cross the 35-year-old bridge, already are common this year. Marco Island police have stepped up patrols near the bridge to help offset the increase in traffic accidents, which occur frequently where the lanes merge onto the bridge.

Traffic counts show that the structure is handling twice the traffic it carried in 1987. Traffic counts taken in 2002 show that an average of 23,000 vehicles use the bridge daily. In 1987, the bridge handled an average of 12,359 cars per day.

Peak-season counts hit an average of 32,879 per day in January, February and March 2002.

Peak-season counts normally double the annual average daily total, Tower said.

Based on core samples and other determining measures, FDOT officials have decided that the existing structure is sound and its two lanes can be used to carry northbound traffic away from the island, Tower said.

Once design work is complete, sometime in 2004, FDOT staff will answer the right-of- way question. If any is needed, that portion of the project would be paid for before the state agency would seek construction money.

The state normally budgets money for construction of an unfunded project once design and right-of-way acquisition is completed, Tower said.


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