I-75 @ Everglades Blvd interchange - 400 people attended big meeting.
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We need it in Golden Gate Estates, a way to get in and out of here from I-75.
The interchange would allow them to get home quicker on a day-to-day basis and leave home quicker in the event of an emergency, such as a brush fire or hurricane, some said.
Collier County’s transportation department proposes adding the new interchange between Collier Boulevard and State Road 29 to improve access to Interstate 75 from the growing Golden Gate Estates. Likely locations for the interchange include Everglades or Desoto boulevards.
Ruth Sterling voiced her feelings to representatives from the county and state during Wednesday’s first public meeting in the cafeteria at Palmetto Elementary School.
“I think it’s way past due,” Sterling, 66, said. “We need it ASAP.”
If the interchange is approved by the state, the earliest construction could start is 2013, officials said.
Sterling, a 17-year resident of 28th Avenue Southeast, said a new interchange is needed for Estates residents for medical reasons, evacuations and daily trips to town. Sterling supports the Everglades Boulevard location.
Despite the possibility of having to pay the existing toll on I-75, Sterling said residents would save money on fuel and time.
She attended the meeting to see what the timeframe was for the proposed interchange.
Residents and property owners roamed around displays of the project, including three Everglades Boulevard alternatives and one Desoto Boulevard alternative with various potential designs.
The meeting gave attendees an opportunity to mingle and speak about issues with county staff members and AIM Engineering Consulting Company representatives.
“We definitely need it,” said Lora Edson, 33, who has lived in the Estates for 10 years.
Edson, who favored the Everglades Boulevard proposal, says the interchange would cut her commute time in half. It currently takes her about 45 minutes to get to Edison College.
Edson was upset about having to pay the toll, but said she would do it, if it would save her time. Still, she said she hoped Estates residents would receive some sort of help for toll fees.
Not everyone was thrilled about the proposed project location.
Tim Nance, past president of the Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association, arrived at Wednesday’s public meeting to review the plans.
Nance expressed support for moving the proposed I-75 interchange from Everglades Boulevard east to the future home of a planned massive residential development called Big Cypress.
He said he was surprised that Big Cypress, which is being developed by Collier Enterprises and is projected to have thousands of homes wasn’t a proposed alternative. He added that it had been in discussion with the county in the past.
Nance was concerned that Everglades Boulevard would be widened to six lanes and become an eminent domain issue for residents, referring to a government’s ability to take ownership of privately-owned property to build things like public utilities or widen roads.
“I think there is a need, but I don’t want an eminent domain,” he said.
Nance questioned if Collier County taxpayers should pay for an interchange that would benefit and serve the future growth towns in the rural parts of the county, such as Big Cypress and Ave Maria.
Estates resident and environmental consultant Michael Ramsey echoed Nance’s comments.
Ramsey said he supported a proposal the county made several months ago of having the interchange east of Desoto Boulevard.
“I favored that option because it preserved the community’s character and rural nature,” Ramsey said.
Transportation Planning Director Nick Casalanguida said Big Cypress was not a current alternative for the interchange because it hasn’t been approved as a Development of Regional Impact.
Casalanguida stressed the importance of showing the need for an interchange in the Estates now and a location could be determined later.
Wednesday’s meeting would help the county determine the preferred location.
Public input is needed to complete an Interchange Justification Report, a study that is necessary before an interchange is built, officials said.
The Interchange Justification Report is being completed and will look into conditions of the area’s roads, reasonable alternatives to a new interchange, future traffic on I-75, environmental impacts, public support and consistency with local, regional and state transportation plans.
Once it’s finished the report will be presented to county commissioners and then to the Federal Highway Administration.
The Federal Highway Administration has the final approval of a new interchange.
Cost is unknown and an estimate for the interchange would be developed during the study.
Multiple sources of funding, including federal, state, local, impact fees and tolls, could pay for the total cost, Casalanguida said.
For more information or to submit comments on the interchange, visit www.colliergov.net Then, go to the “Your Government” tab and select the Transportation Planning Department, select planning studies and then I-75/Everglades Boulevard Interchange Justification Report. Or call transportation department spokeswoman Connie Deane at 252-8192.