Published in EnCompass Magazine
Southwest Florida boasts some of the best beaches, golf courses, restaurants and wild treasures in the country. Local residents and tourists alike spend time enjoying the mild winters and special features the area offers. As more and more visitors discover the beauty of southwest Florida, their appreciation of this region – as well as traffic – grows. Improving the infrastructure is essential and brings the benefits of easier travel and enhanced safety, along with a boost to our economy.
When the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) developed its $38 million construction project for U.S. 41/East Tamiami Trail, engineers focused on improvements that would make a difference to everyone who uses the road. At project completion, expected in fall 2016, drivers will enjoy six lanes from the intersection at State Road 951 to Joseph Lane and four lanes from Joseph Lane to Greenway Road. Median openings spaced throughout the project will allow for left turns and U-turns. With walkers and bicyclists in mind, FDOT is adding a six-foot sidewalk on the south side of U.S. 41 and a 10-foot pathway on the north side. Crews also are building bus stops along the roadway for Collier Area Transit users.
The project replaces traffic signals at the East Naples Fire Station and at Manatee Road. And, a sound wall on the on the south side of the road is under construction, as well, from west of Sandpiper Drive to west of Imperial Wilderness R.V. Resort.
Progression of work
FDOT’s contractor (Ajax Paving Industries of Florida, LLC) is building the U.S. 41 expansion project in three phases. Phase I, begun in November 2013, has included relocation of utilities and currently involves construction of new southbound (eastbound) lanes, along with southbound lanes of the bridge over Henderson Creek. Traffic continues to use existing travel lanes.
In the next few months, weather permitting, construction of sounds walls will finish. Traffic also will shift to new travel lanes as phase II begins. Work scheduled this spring involves reconstructing existing lanes for northbound traffic, including the existing bridge over Henderson Creek. In phase III, traffic will use the entire roadway while crews place sod and work through final items to finish the project.
Coordination is the foundation of this project. It is a job built, literally, “from the underground up.” Uniquely, for example, more than ten different utilities border the roadway, many of them underground. Each must be relocated, an extraordinary challenge given the small areas of right-of-way available after accommodation of new travel lanes for a much wider roadway. The solution? Utility companies combined forces and agreed to share the limited real estate. Utilities will cohabit in one area called a “joint utility trench.” With FDOT’s support, these utility companies collaborated creatively toward a common goal and developed an innovative, successful plan.
Daily coordination with Collier County and its contractor building improvements to the U.S. 41/CR 951 intersection keep traffic moving as efficiently as possible through two work zones. This partnership emphasizes timely completion of two important transportation projects and safety for crews working these jobs and for people traveling through them.
Project teams for both FDOT and Collier County pay close attention to travelers, a group of our most important partners in safety. Seasonal residents with large RVs need to know what to expect and prepare for roadway conditions and so do locals who drive to work each day and adults and children going to church or to the elementary school.
Please remember to buckle up, obey the speed limit, eliminate distractions when driving, don’t tailgate, use caution, and show courtesy to other drivers – these things contribute importantly to safety on U.S. 41 and all roadways.