The Vanderbilt Beach Road extension – stretching another seven miles into Golden Gate Estates – will be the most expensive road project ever undertaken by Collier County.
A groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday officially started the three-year project to extend Vanderbilt Beach Road east of Collier Boulevard to 16th Street Northeast. “For those of us who have been here for a long time, we know that this project is far overdue,” said County Commission Chairman Bill McDaniel, noting that the county’s growth management plan triggered the road project in his district in 2006.
Obviously, the project remained dormant and unfinished for many years. With the project’s design phase at 60% in 2009, the plans for the new roadway were placed on the shelf because of a downturn in the economy, said Trinity Scott, the county’s Transportation Management Services department head. “Fortunately, in 2017 the project was dusted off and the design restarted and in July 2022 the board of county commissioners approved moving forward with contracting the lowest responsive and responsible bidder for the construction, Sacyr Construction USA LLC. Sacyr was vetted and found to have done good work on several major roadway construction projects in Florida, as well as other parts of the United States,” she said.
The delay in starting the project mostly can be attributed to the economy and the sheer size of this project,” said Jay Ahmad, the county’s transportation engineering director, who oversees the department responsible for the project’s design, permitting and right-of-way acquisition.
“It’s a seven-mile project, $153 million of construction,” he said. “We’re spending about $45 million for right-of-way acquisitions. Design and permitting and impacts to the permits is about $10 million. Over $200 million of taxpayers’ money is being spent on this project, extending it east of Collier.”
The finished road east of Collier Boulevard will look like Vanderbilt Beach Road west of Collier Boulevard to Airport-Pulling Road, Ahmad said. “Six lanes will be constructed to Wilson (Boulevard) and two lanes east of Wilson to 16th Street,” he said. “There will be new traffic lights and new signals at Eighth Street, Wilson and 16th Street.”
About 1.5 miles of the Cypress Canal, which runs parallel with Vanderbilt Beach Road, will be relocated to allow construction of the road. The county acquired the right-of-way land to the south that will allow it to move that canal, Ahmad said.
“Right-of-way acquisition was significant for this project,” he said. “Over 311 parcels of land we acquired to be able to construct this roadway with approximately 200 feet of right-of-way. So, 311 parcels were taken by Robert Bosch [the county’s manager of right-of-way acquisition] through negotiations and eminent domain, unfortunately, in some cases. We are currently in negotiation to settle some of those.”
Improvements to a few side streets also are included in the project’s hefty cost. That includes work on Massey Street, Danbury Boulevard and Douglas Road on the north side of Vanderbilt, as well as Weber Boulevard on the south side of Vanderbilt. A multi-use pathway for pedestrians and bicyclists will be constructed along the northern edge of the Vanderbilt Beach Road extension, Ahmad said.
When finished, the new road will provide an alternative for travel to alleviate traffic on Immokalee Road and Golden Gate Boulevard as well as create a better transportation grid system in the Estates with new connections at Wilson, Eighth Street and 16th Street, Ahmad said.
“This road is going to make a difference. It’s going to make a difference to you and your children and your children’s children,” said County Commissioner Penny Taylor, speaking to attendees of the groundbreaking ceremony.
The current project ends at 16th Street Northeast in the Estates, but the extension won’t end there. “Though they keep telling you it’s a three-year project, this is the beginning of the next step,” McDaniel said.
“Infrastructure is the key to success for the maintenance of our quality of life for our community. Without infrastructure, we are lost in our quality of life. This road’s completion in ‘24-’25 will then start the next segment that will carry Vanderbilt all the way out to Everglades Boulevard and interconnect with those road systems out there and give our community an even greater opportunity to move to and through our community.”
PROJECT BY THE NUMBERS
(Important figures in the Vanderbilt Beach Road extension)
7 – Miles covered by the road project
15.5 – Miles of stormwater drainage improvements planned
18 – Pond sites planned to be built to alleviate flooding
24.5 – Miles of curbing planned on both sides of the extension
311 – Number of parcels taken through negotiations or eminent domain
15,000 – Pipes to be used for utilities
1.3 million – Cubic yards of dirt to be brought in
72,000+ – Truck loads needed to bring dirt in
82,000 – Tons of asphalt to be used on the finished road
$45 million – Expenditure for right-of-way acquisitions
$153 million – Contract amount with Sacyr Construction USA
$200 million-plus – Total taxpayers’ dollars being spent on the project
2025 – Estimated completion of construction in early fall of that year