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