FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                   

Contact:         Scott Gilbertson,
Lee County Transportation Department
(941) 479-8580


 FORT MYERS, Fla. (October 11, 2002) – Lee County will officially open the final three-mile stretch of Veterans Memorial Parkway Extension Wednesday (Oct. 16) – a segment that completes a loop from Lehigh Acres to Cape Coral to Charlotte County.

 The Board of Lee County Commissioners will conduct the ribbon cutting at 2 p.m. at the intersection of Veterans Memorial Parkway and Pine Island Road (State Road 78).  Commission Chairman Bob Janes will serve as master of ceremonies.  Officials from the City of Cape Coral and the Florida Department of Transportation will join him – both agencies were instrumental in the completion of the project.

 The $7-million, four-lane divided roadway took 14 months to complete and extends Veterans Memorial Parkway from where it ended at Surfside Boulevard west and north to Burnt Store Road.  The project was completed years in advance of original projections due to a $6-million, no-interest loan from the state-funded State Infrastructure Bank Program.  The loan will be repaid from 2003 to 2008 using surplus toll revenues from the Cape Coral and Midpoint Memorial bridges.

 With the segment to Burnt Store Road, a 30-mile-long continuous transportation corridor has been linked from Lehigh Acres to Punta Gorda – running along Colonial Boulevard, the Midpoint Memorial Bridge, Veterans Memorial Parkway, and finally up to Charlotte County along Burnt Store Road.

 The project includes a signal at the intersection of Burnt Store and Pine Island roads and existing residences are protected by a six-foot-high earthen berm.  The mitigation for the extension also required the dedication of 900 acres for preserve west of the project and adjacent to the Charlotte Harbor Preserve.

 Lee County has been working to complete construction of the corridor since the opening of the Midpoint Memorial Bridge in October 1997 made the connection possible.  The bridge celebrates its five-year anniversary next week.  The entire bridge and corridor project has cost about $175 million.

 In August, the county set aside $2.7 million in a reserve fund to pay for early acquisition of right of way along Burnt Store Road from State Road 78 to the Charlotte County Line (for future widening from two lanes to four lanes).  The fund will be reimbursed with surplus toll revenues from the Midpoint and Cape Coral bridges, which is allocated 60 percent to the county and 40 percent to Cape Coral

 Lee County’s Transportation Department plans, builds, expands and maintains county roads, bridges, ditches and landscaping in the unincorporated areas of Lee County.  It also maintains the county traffic signal system and operates the toll facilities on the Midpoint Memorial, Cape Coral and Sanibel Causeway bridges.  It employs 374 and has an annual operating budget of $37.2 million.