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FDOT works to ease Caloosahatchee Bridge closure congestion as drivers resort to cutting through parking lots

Fox 4's Austin Schargorodski reports on what goes into FDOT’s traffic signal timing changes, and LCSO's efforts enforce traffic laws
Posted at 8:44 PM, Jun 05, 2024

NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s been three days of commuter frustration since the Caloosahatchee Bridged closed. You could see a line of cars backed up at the intersection of Pondella Road and Old-41 in North Fort Myers heading into afternoon rush hour on Wednesday.

With everybody trying to avoid traffic like that around the bridges right now, some people are even breaking the law to do so.

So, Fox 4’s Austin Schargorodski went to FDOT and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office to see what they’re doing to make the drive a little easier.

On Wednesday morning, Lee County Deputies blocked off the Big Lots parking lot at the intersection of Pondella Road and US-41.

LCSO patrol car blocking the Big Lots parking lot.
LCSO patrol car blocking the Big Lots parking lot.

The Sheriff’s Office said they made 26 traffic stops and wrote 5 citations the morning before - all for people cutting through the parking lot to avoid the intersection.

“People are trying to cut corners whenever they can because the traffic is horrible - it’s gotten’ so bad,” said Vic Blanco, a Cape Coral resident.

LCSO patrol car blocking the Big Lots parking lot with cones.
LCSO patrol car blocking the Big Lots parking lot with cones.

Janella Newsome, FDOT’s communications director, said FDOT uses the info from LCSO and Lee County about “hotspots” like Pondella to make adjustments to traffic signal timing.

“Both signals on Pondella - the one at US-41 and the one at business 41 - experienced increased traffic during the peaks and we are trying to balance out the congestion between each of the signal phases,” Newsome explained.

Traffic signal at the intersection of Pondella Road and US-41.
Traffic signal at the intersection of Pondella Road and US-41.

To make these adjustments, Newsome said FDOT also reviews CCTV cameras and monitors driver speed data on Google Maps.

Newsome said that data revealed they needed to make adjustments at the Edison Bridge, too.

“Lee County and FDOT’s staff started observing traffic cameras and speeds at 6:00 a.m. We Noticed issues at signals on either side of the Edison Bridge. Lee County adjusted timings from the TOC as it was observed. The morning congestion started to dissipate around 7:45 a.m. The afternoon congestion was worse, with the Edison Bridge getting backed up in both directions,” said Newsome.

Traffic coming down Old-41 off the Edison Bridge.
Traffic coming down Old-41 off the Edison Bridge.

As FDOT continues to try to keep the traffic moving in these areas, Newsome shared advice for drivers who have to navigate the congestion.

“Please be patient and pre-plan your route. If you took a particular route and found out that it didn’t work for you, there are several other options to take, so just choose the one you think would work best for you,” Newsome said.

Janella Newsome, FDOT's communications director.
Janella Newsome, FDOT's communications director.

FDOT said it generally takes people about 2 weeks to adjust to big traffic changes like this, so Fox 4 will keep you updated on the traffic in the weeks ahead.