For decades, motorists traveling across Alligator Alley from Miami to Naples were often very far away from first responders if they got into trouble. All of that changed Nov. 6 when a long-awaited public safety center opened at mile marker 63.
The county has been working to get an emergency services center on Alligator Alley for more than 25 years. Then-Ochopee Fire Chief Vince Doerr initially made the request to the state in 1988, before Alligator Alley became a four-lane road.
The Ochopee Fire Department, which staffs the new station, has been the department responsible for responding to incidents on the Alley. There are about 250 calls a year on the Alley requiring emergency response, mostly involving vehicle accidents, vehicle fires and medical calls. Research has shown that 73 percent of most of the incidents on that stretch of Alligator Alley happen within 10 miles on either side of the station.
The project is a good example of the state and the county working together. In 2011, the Florida Legislature approved dedicating excess toll revenue from Alligator Alley to develop and operate the station. That was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) supplied the funds for the $8.8 million project as the county did not have the tax base around the station to fund it, and FDOT and the Board of Collier County Commissioners approved an agreement this spring that provides state funding for county staff and equipment at the station for the next four years, clearing the way for Collier County to hire 12 firefighters and paramedics to staff the station on three shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.