The Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Business Card Exchange meeting last week at the Island Grill highlighted concerns of Pine Island Road through Matlacha.
Richard Dobson, who joined the Pine Island community Feb. 26 as the Lee County Sheriff's Office Gulf District captain once again, was the guest speaker. He told those who attended the meeting Tuesday morning that it is his fourth year on the island.
"I am so happy to be back out here," Dobson said, adding that he enjoys being a part of the community.
Gulf District Capt. Richard Dobson
He highlighted the crosswalk issues in Matlacha, as well as possible signage.
"The crosswalk issue is going to be an issue for a while," Dobson said, because the bridge construction needs to be completed before they can start working on solutions.
Lee County Department of Transportation Project Manager Sarah Clarke said the construction crew is working on both demolition and driving sheet piles for the bridge abutments on the north side of the bridge.
"It has been going slowly because they are encountering debris from the old bridge, they did on the south side as well, and they have had equipment break downs," she said. "The demo and completion of the bridge and roadwork can be done concurrently; at this point it looks as if it will be into the summer months - June, July before completion."
Clark said the contract includes liquidated damages in the amount of $8,537 per day.
"Liquidated damages aren't a 'fine;' they are intended to allow the owner, in this case Lee County, to recoup any additional costs incurred due to the project running beyond the contractual time frame," she said.
The construction was scheduled for completion in November 2012.
Dobson said he thinks it will be good if the community, the Department of Transportation, as well, as code enforcement comes together to talk about ways to create a safe environment that works for everyone in Matlacha.
A few of the solutions that were discussed at the meeting were moving the crosswalks to different locations, as well as placing a flashing lighted sign at the crosswalk to let drivers know where it is located and when to look out for pedestrians.
"I think there are things we can do that might make it safer for pedestrians," Dobson said.
He said he likes the idea of having flashing lights, as well as repositioning the crosswalks in Matlacha.
"We need to look at where we can strategically place them," Dobson said of the crosswalks.
He said a blinking light would help the pedestrian, as well as the driver, because it will provide more awareness of the locations of the crosswalks in Matlacha.
Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce Board of Director Bernard Johnson said two new signs were recently put up near Bert's Bar, and, in turn, four or five other were taken signs down. He said he hopes to bring a flashing sign to Matlacha that will allow the pedestrian to push a button to make the sign flash letting the vehicles know someone is there at the crosswalk.
"That is not going to get done until construction is done," Johnson said.
Dobson said once the bridge construction is completed and there is no longer dust in the air, they will get the crosswalks painted, which, he hopes, will occur more often.
In terms of the law, Dobson said a vehicle has a right away if there is no crosswalk and a vehicle must yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
The gray area to that law, he said, is you do not know if a person is standing on the side of the road waiting to cross, or if they are standing there to take a picture of what is around them.
"When are they entering?" Dobson asked of the crosswalk.
The issue of parking in Matlacha was also addressed.
Cindee Tolliver, owner of Traders Hitching Post, brought up the idea of posting a public parking sign with arrows directing traffic to the Matlacha Park.
"That would be a huge help. Visitors don't know there is a park there," she said during the meeting.
Dobson told everyone that he believes there are a lot of things that can be done to help out the Matlacha business community, as well as the safety of pedestrians once the bridge construction is completed.
"As a community, we need to get the community together," he said. "I think we can get a lot of things done."