Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Everglades Boulevard and I-75 Interchange

Board of County Commissioners Vice Chair Jim Coletta, District 5, was among three Collier County Commissioners who traveled to Tallahassee last week to participate in the Florida Association of Counties (FAC) Legislative Day followed by individual meetings with legislators and top state officials.

Following a morning briefing with FAC legislative staff and guest speaker Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Commissioner Coletta met with House Speaker Dean Cannon where he explained a project that continues to be on the county’s state and federal legislative priority lists: the Everglades Boulevard/I-75 Interchange.

“This interchange is a critical public safety need,” said Commissioner Coletta. “We have identified this area as in dire need of an evacuation route in event of wildfire or hurricanes.”

He also suggested that current ramps be left in place in perpetuity as opposed to being removed.

“I’ve got it! This is not my first rodeo,” said Cannon, who added he was formerly a developer’s attorney. “We’re definitely in shape on that issue.”

Continuing to look for an 800- to 1,200-acre site for the use of all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s), and possibly transforming a surplus parcel into a regional ATV park with partnering resources, Commissioner Coletta asked Speaker Cannon for his support of the lease/purchase of a dormant facility. Coletta was referred by the Speaker to the Department of Corrections as well as the administration in the Governor’s office.

Senate President Haridopolos met Commissioner Coletta the morning of Feb. 2. He discussed both the ATV and Everglades Boulevard/I-75 Interchange with him too.

Coletta heard from Sen. Haridopolos a similar administrative remedy for the ATV issue.

“That’s absolutely a no-brainer,” said the Senate President about Everglades Boulevard/I-75 Interchange about the existing ramps and acceleration lanes the Commissioner requested remain in place. “I will call the Department of Transportation (DOT) to voice my support for this project.”

Sen. Mike Bennett, President Pro Tempore, committed also to Commissioner Coletta’s interchange. He was in agreement with an administrative fix to an ATV area. He also confirmed SB 704, sponsored by Sen. Bennett, includes provisions for recreational cabins (hunting camps), which is among Collier County’s 2012 State Legislative Priorities.

Coletta had meetings at the DOT with Bob Romig, State Transportation Development Administrator, DOT Assistant Secretary Richard Biter, and District 1 Secretary Billy Hattaway in Tallahassee on Feb. 3. The purpose of the meeting was to update and ask for DOT’s input on the Everglades Boulevard/Interstate 75 Interchange Study. The county is currently developing a traffic analysis impact justification report (IJR) to demonstrate the need for an I-75 interchange. Upon successful completion of the IJR and Cumulative Effects Evaluation (CEE) studies, FDOT indicated it is prepared to begin the Project Development & Environmental Study (PD&E).

“The meeting went exceedingly well, as no concerns or issues about the I-75 interchange were raised by the department. The DOT indicated full support for Collier County’s efforts and asked that we communicate directly with Secretary Hattaway to keep him apprised of the progress of the interchange project,” said Coletta.

The commissioner then met at the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with Erma Slager, Deputy Secretary, Lands and Recreation, and Clay Smallwood, Director of State Lands to discuss the ATV issue.

For more information, call the Board of County Commissioners office at 252-8097.

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