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Public meeting on proposed shared use pathway from Pine Island to Cape Coral attracts a crowd

By CRAIG GARRETT - | May 13, 2024

Even with the project years away, 100 or so people attended a public meeting Tuesday to learn more about a proposed shared use pathway that would run along Pine Island Road from Stringfellow Road, through Matlacha and into Cape Coral at Burnt Store Road and Veterans Parkway.

The Pine Island Road Shared Use Path Feasibility Study hosted by Florida Department of Transportation had engineers and planners talking up the project and its impact along the 5-mile non-motorized pathway. Users would include walkers and bicyclists, to visitors and moms pushing strollers. Lee County would oversee the project, the state partnering with federal funds and its experts.

The idea of a mixed-use pathway, with street upgrades along Pine Island Road, was floated in Lee County recreational circles for years, an FDOT spokesperson said. Costs weren’t provided at the May 7 event, as feasibility studies feel the pulse of impacted businesses, homeowners and renters, a spokesperson said.

And if the project ever materialized, it would be “the least impactful” on the overall public, FDOT’s District One public information officer David Scarpelli said, adding that safety is a top concern in planning such pathways, hundreds of which dot the state.

The workshop at Pine Island United Methodist Church had stations with whiteboard charts of pathways envisioned by professional street planners. New sidewalks, guardrails, on-street parking, turning lanes, buffers, palm trees, 8-foot pathways are all considered, even diminishing Pine Island Road a foot or two through Matlacha to accommodate a pathway and other changes. Lee County and locals would decide what is important, or even possible, however. A no-build alternative was also listed as a “viable option,” a pamphlet at the event noted.

That sat well with Dawn Raymond, a Matlacha resident insisting that a pathway through an already congested and squeezed downtown area was a “recipe for disaster. Distracted drivers, I’ve seen that myself. There’s only so much land through Matlacha. It would be crazy.”

Mood at the workshop was certainly curious, with visitors making suggestions on whiteboards or filling out cards and inserting those in a drop box. State engineers provided details to anyone asking. A video helped in understanding the vision.

Online feedback would be taken through Friday, May 17. Even with a favorable decision and full funding, construction wouldn’t start before 2030, FDOT planners at the event said, as such projects include design and funding elements, public hearings, construction bids and finally ground-clearing. And the project would also connect existing trail/multi-use path networks at both ends.

FDOT, in an informational flyer, also noted that the project would evaluate “Complete Streets” elements, a nationwide concept to include drivers and public transportation riders, among others. The agency also sent workshop notices to interested persons, businesses and organizations within 300 feet of the proposed project.

For details and to post comments, check swflroads.com. FDOT project manager Steven A. Andrews was also available for questions at 863-519-2270.