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Lee Co. commissioners vote to replace Big Carlos Pass Bridge

Big Carlos Pass Bridge
Posted at 4:44 PM, Feb 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-22 06:41:38-05

ESTERO ISLAND, Fla. — The Big Carlos Pass Bridge is being replaced following a vote to spend $90 million on the infrastructure project. Lee County commissioners approved the contract on Tuesday, moving forward with the construction.

It's one of two bridges to Fort Myers Beach, an area rebuilding after Ian.

"It will be apart of the rebuild here in Fort Myers," said Ed Okragleski, a visitor and fisherman.

Construction is expected to start April 2023 with the new bridge being placed on the Gulf of Mexico side. It'll have seven-foot bike lanes for riders like Chet Valiante.

"The bridge is dangerous the way it is now because the shoulders aren’t wide enough," he said. "They come close to you, cars don't pay attention."

The biggest piece to this project is what it'll do for boats. It's currently a drawbridge. Once completed, it'll be fixed and have a 60-foot clearance for boats.

"They’re opening up multiple times a day for a single boat to come through, which is kinda frustrating to watch," Okragleski said. "It will be a lot easier for everybody."

It'll also include a new fishing pier, a six-foot sidewalk on the north side and a barrier reef. The reef will be constructed using the old bridge materials.

The $90 million price tag will not completely come from commissioners. $25 million will come from the Federal Highway Administration and the Florida Department of Transportation, which will be given to Lee County over the next three years.

Despite the hefty price tag, people say it's worth it.

"If they put nice bike lanes in, I'm all for it," Valiante said.

The bridge will have a 75-year life span. It's expected to be done by late 2026 to early 2027.