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Missy Layfield - Editor

And Were Off.

The project talked about for decades and planned for just about as long, finally kicked off this week. Estero Boulevard is finally showing signs of progress! While delayed for a day by heavy rains this past weekend, work crews were out Tuesday, restriping pavement, setting lane dividers and shifting lanes to prepare for the first part of the project. By next week, theyll have the southbound lane of Estero removed in the first work area and the ground will be ready for the water line work crews.

What most people think of as the Estero Blvd project is really several projects in one. Water, gas, power poles, sewer, stormwater and finally streets and sidewalks. Learning about the plans will help Islanders understand the project and the challenges that are coming with it. This will be a huge project and will affect every Islander, which is why youll see a lot of information in the Sand Paper about it.

The first part of the project is actually the Towns water line project, not the Countys road project. Oh, I know it doesn't much matter to drivers trying to make their way past the construction, but it surely does to those of us who are working or living in the construction zone.

Next week, crews will begin installing water and gas lines, roughly under the southbound lane, the one currently roped off. From 7am-7pm, theyll be closing the center lane while they work, leaving just one lane for both directions of traffic. Flaggers will allow traffic to alternate but you know there will be delays, so plan extra time to get anywhere if youll be driving in the downtown area.

Crews are expected to work in 200segments for the water and gas lines. Public Works Director Scott Baker has said that he expects the water and gas lines in the first segment (Crescent St. to Lovers Lane) to be completed by the end of the year and the street project to take 18 months for that stretch of road.

In a society that is used to instant results, this is going to seem like forever. And there will be plenty of second-guessing. We want to encourage Islanders to focus on the results and not the inconvenience it will take to get those results. Much as wed all like the road to be magically redone, say, by September, thats not going to happen.

After the water and gas lines are laid on the Gulf side of the road, power poles have to be moved, the sanitary sewer line on the bay side of the road will get some attention and the new road will have a stormwater filtration system in the middle. Once all that is in place, the road can be paved. Its really not as simple as tearing up the road and repaving it.

The Town and the Beach Chamber have been working to be sure that Islanders understand whats happening and are prepared for it. Now that the traffic cones are up and the pavement is torn up, its time for everyone, resident, visitor and business to pay attention and figure out how to deal with the project because it will affect you.

Restaurants and bars may suffer the most when the inevitable water shut offs occur during the project. The Beach Chamber has stepped up, found a partner in Ready Ice and has plans to have bottled water and ice ready for those affected by water shut offs and boil water orders. Everyone has been encouraged to lay in a stock of bottled water if youre in the construction zone. Well, now is the time to actually do it. No complaining about being without water theres been plenty of notice. Same goes for traffic. Delays should not be a surprise to anyone. Plan for it.

As we begin what is sure to be the longest construction project most of us have ever experienced, we want to encourage Islanders to hold onto their Island spirit:

Be nice to construction crews and flaggers.

Plan ahead so youre not inconvenienced when the water goes out and then have a boil water order for 3 days.

Patronize businesses in the construction zone. They need your business now more than ever.

When traffic backs up, let waiting cars into the line of traffic.

Wave & smile!

Let traffic turn left. The left turn lanes are gone in the construction areas, so cars waiting to turn left will back up traffic.

This is going to be much like season and Islanders are known for their laid back approach to seasonal traffic. Lets pull that spirit out for construction!

Most of all we all need to support Fort Myers Beach during construction - Invite your friends to Fort Myers Beach. Let everyone know that Fort Myers Beach is OPEN for business!

Missy Layfield