Marco Island Florida News, Marco Island Bridge Expansion 

$17Million Dollar expansion of Judge Jolley Bridge In the planning!

It has been announced that state engineers have begun a two-year process to complete design of an $17 million dollar project to expand the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge from two to four lanes.  Traffic records show that the 34-year-old bridge is handling more than twice the traffic it handled in 1987 18 years after the bridge opened in 1969.  As some of you may know, the bridge was a toll bridge, ranging from five cents to fifty cents.  What will the new toll be if any? This is to be determined.

It could be 2005 before the Florida Department of Transportation can place the project out for bid and begin actual construction, and that's only if the Metropolitan Planning Organization maintains the expansion project at a high priority on the road projects, where it sits at No. 2 on the Collier County list behind a Davis Boulevard Expansion project in Naples.

According to the Florida Department of Transportation counts, Jolley Bridge had an average daily trip count of 12,359 cars per day in 1987. The ADT figure is an annual count based on quarterly counts that include the island's peak season months that often are double what off-season counts total, DOT spokeswoman Debbie Tower said.

By 1999, ADT counts jumped to 26,000 cars per day, Tower said.

Broken down to actual quarterly counts, by peak season months of January, February and March 2001, the bridge was carrying 33,135 cars per day. During October, November and December 2001, the count dropped to 25,841, but then rose to 32,879 during January, February and March 2002, according to Marco Island Public Works Director Vladimir Ryziw.

The counts Ryziw noted were taken off the island north of the bridge at a count station just south of Isles of Capri Road on Collier Boulevard.

Local business and public safety officials say expanding the bridge to four lanes is needed as soon as possible to alleviate traffic backups that occur daily during peak season months from January to April when the island's off-season population of 18,000 residents booms to 35,000 residents.

That's not counting local beach visitors, tourists and the hundreds of Collier County residents who travel to the island to work.

Marco Island Police Chief Roger Reinke said there have been 14 accidents on the bridge or at the base of the bridge since January 2002.

None of those had serious injuries but most that occur in peak season cause traffic snarls that back traffic lanes up on the bridge and back north to County Road 951 or south for several blocks into Marco. The backups worsen because highways on either side offer four lanes that merge to two lanes on the bridge, causing traffic stack-ups, which aggravate motorists with traffic delays and hamper emergency vehicle access on and off the island, Reinke said. Just as short as a month ago, there was a crash on the South side of the bridge at about 4:30 pm.  Of course, traffic was at a stand still, with people backed up to the Marriott Hotel trying to leave the island. Emergency vehicles were having a very tough time getting to the scene, as they were slowed by the two lanes of stalled traffic while attempting to get to the rear ended car.  

"From a public safety standpoint and a traffic control standpoint, the more lanes you have the more options you have for alternatives," Reinke said.

"That's not true with just this bridge, but with any bridge. It's only common sense that additional lanes give you more options to reroute traffic and provide alternatives that will help reduce traffic backup in peak season."

Marco Island Chamber of Commerce has a transportation committee that has not yet discussed the proposed bridge expansion project. It's been reviewing other traffic relieving strategies, such as providing public transportation to employees who travel from as far away as Immokalee to work on the island, Chamber President Bob Dictor said.

"We would be very supportive of a bridge expansion project," Dictor said. "We probably would support a toll. But any improvements that would re move the impedance of traffic presented by the current bridge would be good for businesses as well as for residents."

Marco Island Civic Association has yet to take an official position on the proposed bridge project, MICA President Jim Arnold said.

"The board hasn't really taken a position on that," Arnold said. "I'm not really sure what's being proposed or who's paying for what yet. It just hasn't been brought to the board's attention at this stage."

Tower and Ryziw said the DOT will hold public workshops on the proposal to build a parallel two-lane expansion adjacent to the existing bridge to create four lanes once the design process enters final phases a year and a half from now if not sooner.


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