The Engage Estero Public Forum Traffic Congestion in Greater Estero

(Written by Allan Bowditch, Engage estero’s Chief Communications Officer) Go to Part 1

Questions and Comments from the Public

The Engage Estero team would like to thank all those who attended the Public Forum for their interest and participation in the meeting. Those in attendance raised many questions, and the panel’s responses are summarized below.

Question: How are speed limits updated when a road changes from a rural farm road to a densely traveled suburban/urban road?

Wayne Gaither, FDOT, said that the community requests changes. The department will conduct a study to assess traffic volume to determine the appropriate speed limit.

Question: Who in Lee County is responsible for the planning process?

Max Forgey stated, “The original Comprehensive Plan was created in 1988. This plan included hundreds of hours of citizen participation. It resulted in a very good plan. It has undergone several updates since then, some better than others. The plan updates are formed based on who has the strongest voice at the time. Sometimes, that is residents; other times, it is developers.”

The Lee County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) is the 25-year vision for the community’s transportation needs and expectations. It considers all types of travel and identifies projects that best serve drivers and their passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and people using public transportation.

Wayne Gaither added to a subsequent question that FDOT’s District One is large, covering 12,000+ square miles. It has many miles of roadways, intersections, and community needs. They work with Counties, local Municipalities, and planning agencies to integrate their visions into their FDOT plans. Appended is a summary of the plans that are currently in place.

Question: Why has the introduction of roundabouts used overseas to help reduce accidents and speed traffic flow not been used extensively here? What is the reluctance of US transportation professionals to implement roundabouts here?

Wayne Gaither explained that the short answer was that the community tends to resist the introduction of roundabouts at intersections. However, as described in Part 1 of the summary of the Public Forum, it significantly reduces serious life-threatening accidents because speeds are lowered, and accidents involving glancing contact rather than 90-degree or head-on contact at traffic lights are reduced.

Wayne shared a story of a freight company executive who fought hard against a roundabout near his facility. He lost the fight. But six months after the roundabout was finished, he started advocating for roundabouts because of positive driver feedback from the trucking company he was running! It seems likely that Southwest Florida could see a growing number of roundabouts, which improves traffic flow and safety.

Question: Why do we not use options such as overpasses at lights to improve pedestrian safety?

Wayne Gaither said that there were four major issues to be aware of.

  • First is the initial cost of the design and construction,
  • Second is the cost of maintenance.
  • The failure to use the overpass once constructed.
  • The need to meet ADA requirements.

He said, “The public doesn’t realize that an overpass is an additional system to the intersection that will add incrementally to the maintenance costs involved.  Once built, it is difficult to convince residents to shed the car for the overpass.”

Question: Is it too late to consider a mass transit system in our area?

Carmen Monroy stated that she and Wayne Gaither had previously worked at Lee-Tran, the Lee County Bus system.  She commented that working on a mass transit system is always possible.  Wayne Gaither added that it takes community intensity and density to justify a public transit system, which is extremely difficult in an urban sprawl environment.

Question: How is the overall day-to-day management of the traffic flow handled?

Wayne Gaither said, “Once the infrastructure is in place, the daily management has to respond to the intensity and density of traffic.  We are still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Ian.  The state and county are backlogged in receiving replacement parts to repair existing signals.” Gaither also identified that I75 lane expansion is in the beginning stages of expansion from 3 to 4 lanes in each direction.  This will include upgrades to existing entrances/exits.


Question: Could we have an I75 exit at Coconut Road as a strategy to relieve congestion at the Corkscrew interchange?

Gaither stated that this level of redesign would involve the federal government, as it is a federal road managed by FDOT. They have specific standards for initiating access roads. Gaither did not think an exit at Coconut Road would be part of the I75 expansion.

Question: Why does it take so long to pass by an accident?

An audience member expressed frustration at distracted drivers slowing down to “investigate” the accident they are passing.  It was explained that with no-fault insurance coverage, the need for a complete police report is mitigated. It often requires multiple emergency vehicles and delays in car movement to allow traffic to flow freely again.

Carmen Monroy said that Florida is leading the nation with incident response. There is a concern for first responders including work zone maintenance/construction. There is a concern for first responders including work zone maintenance/construction workers because there are over 900+ fatalities nationwide in construction zones.  Driver behavior is a key factor.  If an accident involves a death, then the data-gathering requirements are much different and far more intense.  She also noted that driving should be considered a privilege that can be revoked!

Question: How do we connect with public officials about our concerns?

For contact information, Carmen Monroy pointed the audience to the Lee County DOT and MPO websites. ( &

An audience member thanked Engage Estero for setting up and hosting the Public Forum. However, the audience expressed disappointment that the Lee Department of Transport (LDOT) was absent from participating in the conversation and was concerned about the lack of 30, 40, and 50-year-olds in the room to learn about the subject.

Engage Estero’s management and Board sincerely thank the panelists for their time and insights, which were greatly appreciated.

Perhaps the most important question is: What should happen next to address congestion in our area?

Future Actions.

Overcoming the traffic congestion issues in Southwest Florida, specifically in greater Estero, will be difficult for many reasons. Florida’s overall budget is under considerable pressure due to remedial costs from recent hurricanes and normal budgetary items.

Despite Governor DeSantis’s focus on Florida’s future and transportation in particular, with a historic investment of $15.6 billion in funding for statewide transportation projects, this will be spread out over the state. The projects and costs included in FDOT District 1 (which covers Lee County and Southwest Florida specifically) are appended. Their 5yr budget for the district, which includes Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Lee, Manatee, Okeechobee, Polk, and Sarasota, for the five years through to 2028 is $6,337.6M.

As we heard stated during the Public Forum:

While there are options that could be considered from other countries that could improve traffic congestion, we have to recognize that the mindset of residents in America is somewhat different from that of Europeans and other countries.

  • Public transport use and availability in the US are much lower. Its availability and general attitude towards public transport are key factors.
  • The road layouts in many localities, especially in Florida, where few grid systems are in place, are not conducive to some solutions used elsewhere.
  • The view in the USA that the car is “King” is an issue, and people do not want to give up the car in a hurry!
  • The dangers of cycling and walking in Southwest Florida dissuade many from taking that option—all play a role in limiting what improvements can be considered.

So, what is possible?

  1. The state-of-the-art system that LDOT has can be improved even further with the assistance of AI. This will enable traffic patterns to be discerned quickly, and remedial action will be sent to traffic lights to adjust the light sequence to speed traffic flow even more efficiently than is currently the case.
  2. FDOT and LDOT will consider installing more roundabouts to improve safety and traffic flow at the junctions where they are installed.
  3. The Village of Estero seriously considers workforce housing in future development projects. The ability of important employees, such as teachers, healthcare workers, first responders, etc., to live much closer to their place of work will reduce traffic and the number of staff who might otherwise leave their positions due to the high living costs and lengthy travel time.
  4. The Village has also reduced construction projects and the resulting increase in traffic by purchasing several important parcels of land within the Village of Estero and by rezoning them they have eliminated any prospect of commercial or residential building taking place on them.
  5. The Village of Estero could consider providing more local public transport, such as a small bus or trolley service, to enable people to travel to key places such as medical facilities, shopping districts, etc., reducing the need to use their vehicles. In the future, local public transport could be linked to public transport from other locations outside greater Estero to provide a more integrated public transport system.
  6. The Village of Estero supports the Rails to Trails initiative, which would enable bikers and pedestrians to travel north/south between Alico Road and Bonita Beach Road. In addition, if the development of another east/west route between Via Coconut and US 41 is confirmed, interconnectivity will be improved, resulting in more people riding bicycles, scooters, rollerblades, etc., to get around.
  7. Road widening to 4 lanes will be implemented along Williams Road east/west. Another east/west road between Willaims Road and Corkscrew has been considered, but no decision has been made yet. LDOT recognizes the need for the likely development of a six-lane highway along East Corkscrew, although that is still many years away. However, with appropriate public pressure, it could be brought forward.
  8. Extending Alico Road to SR-82 will help alleviate some of that traffic. The extension will cut a 9-mile path through untouched territory. Phase One starts east of the Airport Haul Road intersection and goes to Green Meadow Road. “Workers have two ways to travel: Daniels or Colonial from Lehigh Acres,” said Brian Hamman, the Lee County Commissioner for District Four. “If we can take Alico Road and connect it up to Sunshine Boulevard in Lehigh Acres, we can create another route from Lehigh Acres to help people get to work.”
  9. Adjusting people’s local travel times will also help. Avoiding rush hour will improve travel times.
  10. FDOT should consider providing HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes on I75 and US 41. HOV lanes are intended to incentivize throughput (move more persons per car, per lane) and save carpoolers and bus riders time by enabling them to bypass congestion in the regular or “general purpose” lanes. This option has been used in other countries and parts of the US.

If you have other practical suggestions that you would like to share, please comment at the bottom of this article.


  1. Why can’t we take the abandon rail system that runs from Fort Myers to Naples and turn it into a rapid transit system? Folks that work at either end could ride to work. Bus routes could add to moving people to the nearer destinations. That would lower the traffic at peak times.

    • Tom Horn’s Idea is the BEST idea to use an already established path to lessen the traffic load on all the roads. This would solve the north- south traffic problem that has gotten out of control.

  2. I don’t understand why a proper separate bike path was not included in the Corkscrew Road expansion. You would have to be crazy to bike along the bike lane attached to the roadway. Huge dump trucks and cement trucks are constantly on the road and you can often see their tire marks in the bike lane. It is really a waste. I also agree that traffic circles are a great help to traffic congestion. Thank you.

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