For the Gateway District, turning over ownership and control of Gateway Boulevard and Griffin Drive to Lee County was supposed to be a no-way-we-can-lose proposal that saved millions of dollars.
Not so much.
Due to the number of serious car accidents at both the Gateway and Griffin as well as Gateway and Commerce Lakes Drive intersections, the county has decided to build roundabouts at both locations. The roundabouts idea has been immensely unpopular with Gateway residents, particularly at Gateway and Griffin – since everyone just kind of assumed Lee County would install traffic lights.
Another nasty surprise: the Gateway District will be responsible for paying for relocating and/or rebuilding the water and sewage utility lines that are located under those intersections.
Gateway and Commerce Lakes will be done first – with a utility cost relocation cost of approximately $600,000. None of the utility costs will be bared by the county, however the county will pay for the roundabout itself.
As for Gateway and Griffin? Oh boy. The conservative belief is that the utility costs will double to around $1,000,000 dollars — but that amount actually seems too low. In fact just to study and design the relocation of the district’s utility assets will cost $123,000. That’s before moving a single pipe.
The Gateway District will not be raising assessments to pay for any of this, but will rather be passing the costs along through your water bills.
Now… Gateway and Commerce Lakes is a done deal.. it’s happening.
But for Gateway and Griffin it’s not officially official that a roundabout will be built. So the Gateway District has decided to formally oppose it.
The Board of Supervisors would unanimously prefer a traffic light, but if that’s not possible it sounds like they’d rather the county just leave the intersection alone altogether. That said, now that the roads have been turned over the decision lies strictly with Lee County. But it certainly doesn’t hurt for the Supervisors to try since the district has several concerns about a roundabout at Gateway and Griffin.
As one example, with Boardwalk at Gateway and the future fire station not even built yet, nobody really knows what that intersection is going to be like a few years from now.
Second? The cost, as previously mentioned. It is conceivable it would cost Gateway residents between $2,000,000 to $3,000,000 in water utility costs for both roundabouts, in addition to the community’s share of Lee County’s costs to actually construct the roundabouts.
There is also extreme concern from some Supervisors that there simply isn’t enough room to actually build a proper two-lane roundabout at Gateway and Griffin. Semi-trucks will obviously have to take up both lanes when they traverse through it.
At last week’s Gateway District meeting, the Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve Supervisor Ed Tinkle and former Supervisor Rod Senior working together to draft a formal letter of protest to the construction of a roundabout at Gateway and Griffin. The letter is expected to be presented to the Gateway board at their May 21 meeting and – if the letter is to the Gateway board’s liking – sent to Lee County Board of County Commissioners.
One Commissioner, Cecil Pendergrass, happens to be a Gateway resident. But aside from him it’s safe to say that Gateway’s board members are far more familiar with this situation than the rest of the Lee County board.
Pendergrass voted in favor of the roundabout at Gateway and Griffin in 2019, citing that Lee County Department of Transportation staff officially recommended the roundabout to the BOCC, and because Pendergrass did not want to see hundreds of feet worth of trees chopped down along Gateway Boulevard so motorists could see the traffic signals.
How many trees would have to go? I’ve heard two numbers: 700 feet, and 1000 feet.
So if the decision was changed to a traffic signal then somewhere between 700 and 1000 feet worth of oak trees in each direction would need to be removed from Gateway Boulevard. That’s not going to be popular with some people.
However … those oaks are actually the source of another issue for the Gateway District: their roots have been damaging the road and sidewalks in multiple areas over the past few years. So, getting rid of those trees may actually be a blessing in disguise for the district in the long term.
It’s not often you see all five Supervisors agree on something so strongly, but this is one of those cases.
The Supervisors want to see Lee County change their mind and install a traffic light at the Gateway and Griffin intersection. And if the county won’t do that, Gateway’s leaders want the county to leave that intersection alone – at least for the time being.
When Boardwalk and the fire station are built maybe everyone can re-evaluate.
Hopefully Lee County’s leaders will be swayed by the Board of Supervisors efforts – because I can vouch that the Gateway board is speaking on behalf of the majority of Gateway residents on this issue.
We’ll publish the letter being crafted by Tinkle and Senior once we get our hands on it.