Golden Gate Estates North / South Corridor receives criticism
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Extending Wilson Blvd - evacuation route for GGE residents too?
NAPLES — Plans for a new north-south corridor that would also provide an emergency evacuation route for rural Collier County residents drew some criticism last week at the Shepherd of the Glades Lutheran Church in East Naples.
Collier County transportation officials presented three alternative routes for the corridor in addition to an option of building no new road at all. When completed, the road would connect the northern reaches of Collier County to U.S. 41 south in East Naples.
According to Robert Rutledge, project manager for the Wilson Boulevard Extension/Benfield Road Corridor Study, the county began studying alternatives in 2007 to improve north-south travel in an area bounded by U.S. 41 to the south, Collier Boulevard to the west, Miller Boulevard to the east and Golden Gate Boulevard to the north.
Rutledge said the new road would create additional connections to Collier Boulevard, U.S. 41 and Interstate 75. The road would also ease traffic congestion created by population increase, meet hurricane evacuation needs and enhance overall safety in the area.
Since 2007, various routes have been considered and screened. The alternatives were evaluated according to criteria including the number of potential businesses and residential relocations, historical sites, wetlands, wildlife habitat, right of way acquisition and cost of construction.
The county has also held public meetings with residents who will be impacted by any of the possible alignments as well as local, state and federal agencies that are responsible for wetlands, wildlife and the overall quality of life in the study area.
This month, the final three routes were presented in the final draft of the study and will go through a screening to determine which is best. Rutledge said if there is no clear “winner,” the no-build option remains.
The final three options:
n Miller Road running from a new I-75 Interchange at Everglades Boulevard to the north and then connecting with U.S. 41 to the south. Under this alternative, Green Boulevard would also be extended east to Everglades Boulevard.
n Wilson-Benfield A: Wilson Boulevard would be extended south to Landfill/Blackburn Road, then turn west along Landfill Road to a point west of Benfield, where it would then extend south and cross over I-75 linking to Collier Boulevard. After passing over I-75, it will then extend south, intersect with several existing roads including Lord’s Way, Rattlesnake Hammock Road Extension and Sabal Palm Road. The new road would continue south to U.S. 41 East. This proposal also includes a northern extension just west of Benfield where it would connect with City Gate Boulevard North.
n Wilson-Benfield B: This alternative is the same as A with the exception that Wilson Boulevard would be extended along Blackburn/Landfill Rd. to a point east of Benfield Road and heads south, crossing over I-75 and making the same intersections as alternative A, ultimately connecting with U.S. 41 East. This alternative would also connect with City Gate Boulevard North.
Response from meeting attendees was mixed.
Estate’s resident Geoff Wane did not favor the Wilson-Benfield alternatives.
“The area is already too busy,” he said of the plan. “They need to change the proposal or totally redo the Davis Boulevard/CR 951 intersection. This intersection is failing. The Miller Boulevard proposal is too far east. The Wilson Boulevard alternative is the best.”
Former Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association president Tim Nance said the Miller Boulevard alternative was too far east, crossing through environmentally protected state land and would only benefit future developers.
“I can’t believe that anyone working in government or on staff in Collier County would realistically expect this to be acceptable to the state of Florida, much less the environmental advocacy groups,” he said. “... Future development on U.S. 41 east would be the only beneficiary of this proposal. Clearly, development interests control Collier County.”
E-mail Kenneth Costello at KRCFLA@aol.com