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Councilman Seeks Input on Crosswalk Signs

03/23/2011 at 2:34pm
New Crosswalk Signs
Councilman Seeks Input
on Crosswalk Signs

Anyone driving up and down the island in the last couple of weeks has likely noticed some new signs in several crosswalks on Estero Boulevard. The result of one councilman and one local businessman trying to solve a serious safety issue in our community, the signs are only there on the county's blessing, and the future of their existence – and whether or not we get more – is up to those who may or may not find them necessary.

"Ten or twelve years ago, when I upgraded Santini Plaza so that it became more of a pedestrian destination, I saw a tremendous increase in the amount of foot traffic coming both to the Plaza and to Fish Tale Marina – and most of it came from the Gulf side of Estero Boulevard,” said Fish Tale Marina owner Al Durrett. "Every year, people were getting hurt or killed – it became a real hazardous situation for people walking back and forth. When Alan Mandel was on the Local Planning Agency, I got with him and we talked about trying to find a cure for this problem.”

Many times, something that works for one community can work for another, and then-LPA member Mandel found his answer in the little town of Bayfield, Wisconsin.

"They had these types of signs in their crosswalks, which got very busy in the summer,” he said. "They took them down in the winter, and their town manager said they were very effective so I took pictures and brought them before council.”

At that time, however, the Town was in the midst of having to deal with one town manager after another so it wasn't until Mandel was elected to Council and Terry Stewart came on board that he saw his idea come to fruition.

"Since the county owns Estero, I had to get permission from them to put up the signs,” Mandel told us. "In order to do so, the county required our staff to count how many cars stop or didn't stop in the crosswalks where we wanted to put them. Now that they are up, we are doing that survey again, which will take about 10 days.”

"In order for us to keep the ones we have and/or get more, we still need county approval, so I encourage everyone who likes them to send a letter or an email to either Terry Stewart or our Public Works Director Cathie Lewis.”

Durrett added that the point of the signs is to make drivers more aware of pedestrians in the crosswalks, thus saving lives. The signs are paid for by the Town, though some private citizens have stepped forward offering to fund their placement.

"One resident, she lost her five-year-old granddaughter in a crosswalk accident up North,” said Mandel. "She offered to purchase one in memory of her granddaughter, and Cathie is investigating how to put a memorial plaque in the Town Right of Way.”

Bottom line, the signs are good business because they jibe with the Town's Comp Plan, says Durrett.

"The Comp Plan calls for a ‘Walking District' for Santini Plaza and Fish Tale Marina,” he said. "It would be absolutely wonderful to have this area established as pedestrian friendly. I'm so proud of this council – especially Alan Mandel – for taking steps forward to try and make this town safe for pedestrians and bicyclists.”

"If it was deemed necessary, I would be more than happy to foot some of the cost myself.”

Mandel thanked Durrett for taking a leadership role in what he hopes will be a new partnership between council and local businesses, saying that this is only a first step in making our streets and sidewalks safe.

"If anyone has any suggestions as to how to make these signs better, please contact us,” he said.

Email addresses for Terry Stewart: Terry@fortmyersbeachfl.gov; Cathie Lewis: Cathie@FortMyersBeachFL.gov; Commissioner Ray Judah: dist3@leegov.com

Keri Hendry