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Trying times are upon us

January 29, 2014
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

"These are the times that try men's souls." Said our founding father Thomas Paine. Word is, that he was stuck in traffic on his way to Fort Myers Beach during spring break.

There simply cannot be a bigger traffic jam anywhere in the county than happens there. Two lanes of incoming traffic become stopped cold, from the Times Square pedestrian crosswalk back up San Carlos Boulevard for three miles or more. It even clogs the intersection under the Summerlin overpass. Outgoing traffic backs up from that same pedestrian crosswalk to the Church of the Ascension. Once past the crosswalk, going either way, the congestion eases considerably, especially for outgoing traffic.

The bottleneck is known. It is that crosswalk. It has been known for years. The solutions have been known for years. The problem is like the weather; everybody talks about it, nobody does anything about it. Well that's not entirely true. Someone thought up the traffic light scheme on San Carlos Island, that lets only one lane through at a time to the sky bridge. Although it baffles our tourists and really riles residents of San Carlos Island, it does eliminate the road rage brawls that happened at the foot of the bridge.

And the Sherriff provides a traffic cop at the crosswalk, which holds the pedestrians back for a little bit, then lets a large gaggle surge through. That helps move the cars. It was almost worth the wait when they had the entertainer cop doing dances and pantomime as he directed traffic. They replaced him, darn it. No sense of humor.

Here are some solutions, and why we can't do them:

- Raise the crosswalk. You would have to put in elevators to accommodate the handicapped. You would have to screen it in to stop kids from dropping water balloons on cars. It would be a nice place for a welcome sign.

- Raise the road over the crosswalk. Expensive construction, and requires the taking of private land to make room, although most of the necessary land is available. Times Square merchants would be bypassed. They have clout.

- Build another bridge to the island. When we could have got the permits, we didn't have the money. Now the permits to build a causeway across Estero Bay would be impossible. Environmental activists would claim that it would destroy the bay. Too bad we didn't do it in the 1960s when the other bridges were built to Sanibel, Cape Coral, North Fort Myers and Bonita Beach. All of those destroyed places.

- Reduce the volume of traffic. Be like Sanibel, slap a fat toll on the bridge to discourage tourists. Have a fleet of tow trucks to snatch illegally parked cars and to charge exorbitant fees. Be rude and nasty to visitors, hoping they won't come back. Wait. We've tried all of that except for the toll booth, and it didn't work. People still come. The bridge belongs to the state, so they would get the toll money. I guess it's hopeless. We'll just continue to talk it to death.

I once heard a wag say they should blow the bridge to the beach. He didn't see why they but a bridge over a perfectly good moat, anyway. We could be isolationists. Fat, happy, peaceful and broke.



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