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Widening I-75 in Lee and Collier counties could cost more than $2 billion and take 20 years

 Bumper to bumper traffic and congestion are common most rush hours at some places along I-75 in Lee and Collier Counties, even without a crash or other road issue.   FDOT is working on plans, and trying to find money, to add more lanes to 75 in both counties.
FDOT
Bumper to bumper traffic and congestion are common most rush hours at some places along I-75 in Lee and Collier Counties, even without a crash or other road issue. FDOT is working on plans, and trying to find money, to add more lanes to 75 in both counties.

The Florida Department of Transportation said it is trying to find money to widen part of I-75 and improve interchanges in a 42-mile stretch of the roadway.

More than $2 billion and 20 years.

That's the cost in today's dollars, and the time frame, to add more lanes to I-75 in the most populated areas of Lee and Collier counties, and to improve interchanges along the interstate.

The numbers come from the Florida Department of Transportation, FDOT. The agency's interstate project manager, Joshua Jester, said the area needs more interstate lanes by 2045 at the latest. And it needs better traffic flow at the interchanges along the way.

"If we were to do nothing, well, nothing on the interstate would really be moving," Jester said. "It would come to a standstill."

But cost is an issue. "We're well over $2 billion with everything that's been identified," Jester said.

FDOT wants to add one lane in each direction of I-75 in a 42-mile stretch from County Road 951 in Collier, north to the Bayshore exit in Lee County. The agency also wants to add express lanes to the interstate north of Corkscrew Road in Estero. FDOT said it is studying whether to charge tolls for use express lanes.

 FDOT wants to add one lane in each direction of I-75 in a 42-mile stretch from County Road 951 in Collier, north to the Bayshore exit in Lee County.   The agency also wants to add express lanes to the interstate north of Corkscrew Road in Estero.   FDOT said it is studying whether to charge tolls for use express lanes.
FDOT
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Special to WGCU
FDOT wants to add one lane in each direction of I-75 in a 42-mile stretch from County Road 951 in Collier, north to the Bayshore exit in Lee County. The agency also wants to add express lanes to the interstate north of Corkscrew Road in Estero. FDOT said it is studying whether to charge tolls for use express lanes.

But right now the road planners need money design the wider interstate, much less pay for construction of more lanes. Jester said widening might not begin for 10 years, unless FDOT can find more money.

"That's one of the first things we are working on," he said. "Figuring out where to find the money, so we can build it."

FDOT added a third lane to I-75 in both directions about 15 years ago. That project cost roughly $500 million.

Carolina Nieto of Estero said she is driving in 75 congestion most days in both counties. She said the heavy rush hour traffic brings out the worst in some drivers.

"It's awful. Other people on the road are so angry lately," she said. "People are cutting off. You put on the blinker, try to get over to get off at Daniels, and nobody gives you a pass. It's very frustrating."

The Daniels interchange is next in line for improvements. FDOT's Jester confirmed that Daniels and Pine Ridge Road will become diverging diamond interchanges. They will be like Colonial, which is under construction now. Jester said money is available for those interchange improvements, and he expects construction to begin at Daniels and Pine Ridge in the fall of 2024.

In the meantime Jester pleaded with drivers to resist road rage as interstate congestion increases.

"You are in a 2,000 pound vehicle, and one little mistake could be someone's life," he said. "Relax, be patient. Everyone's on the same road together."

Mike Walcher is a visiting assistant professor in the Journalism program at FGCU. He also works for WGCU News, and can be reached at mwalcher@fgcu.edu

Copyright 2023 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Mike Walcher