Bumpy Road Ahead; Pine Island Road has a ton of concerns

Reporter: Olivia Jean
Published: Updated:

Pine Island Road is no stranger to crashes.

On Saturday, Mary Lou Sharp lost her life when she got hit by a car while she was eating lunch at That BBQ Place, a roadside restaurant in Matlacha.

Pine Island Road was built years ago before Southwest Florida took off, but it wasn’t built to sustain the amount of traffic it serves daily.

Mary Lou isn’t the first to be killed on this road. In 2020, the Blue Dog Bar and Grill, right across the street from That BBQ Place, suffered property damage after a car veered off the road and hit the restaurant.

That BBQ Place Owner John Petrus said people pay no attention to the 30 miles-per-hour speed limit.

“Some of them think that they can drive down at 40 miles an hour to pass people turning into Blue Dog and yell and scream at us for putting signs out or putting cones out to keep them from doing it because we’ve inconvenienced them for four seconds,” Petrus said.

Petrus was not the only one to express concerns. Several people WINK News Reporter Olivia Jean spoke to said the same thing.

“I’ve invited the sheriff’s department to sit on my driveway. They have yet to take me up on that,” said Petrus, “I will block off my driveway.”

Some people say that speeding is so bad that there is an increase in police presence. On Tuesday, WINK saw multiple police vehicles camped out, catching people for speeding.

But many say they still feel the road is very dangerous and has been for years. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office also said they get many reports of speeding on Pine Island Road.

In addition to speeding, concerns are that drivers aren’t paying attention to pedestrians.

WINK News reached out to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office for data. They provided information related to the intersections of Burnt Store and Pine Island Rd, and Stringfellow and Pine Island Rd so far this year.

  • Burnt Store/Pine Island Rd had 11 traffic stops (9 of this having tickets or warnings issued), no crashes.  
  • Stringfellow/Pine Island has had 12 traffic stops (all resulting in tickets or warnings), and no crashes listed.

It will take time to pull data from the specific stretch of road in Matlacha, but WINK News will keep you updated.

Cody Allen with Matlacha and Pine Island Fire tried to help on Saturday. He was working when he got the call that five people had been hit by a car. He saw the chaotic scene.

“Anything of that nature and that mechanism, it’s going to be a highly emotionally charged scene,” Allen said.

He grew up in Southwest Florida and has been called to Matlacha several times since working at the station.

With all that foot traffic, there’s going to be an element of danger associated with it when you have people walking around highly trafficked area,” Allen said.

Construction crews with Florida Department of Transportation have been working on the bridge and roadway. Only time will tell if it makes the road safer.

WINK News spoke with Janella Newsome from the Florida Department of Transportation.

“We are making sure the barrels or the cones are quite visible. We will also make sure that our employees can be well seen as people are making their travel through,” Newsome said. “We’re doing everything that we possibly know to do to keep motorists safe and to also keep the traffic flowing in a safe manner. But we can’t do it alone.”

She went on to say, “We’ve got to have the help of the drivers themselves. And so that means making sure that you stay alert and be vigilant right. Be aware of your surroundings, cars in front of you and back have you, be aware of the speed limit.”

Unfortunately, there may not be a fix for Pine Island Road’s dangers. Stay alert when driving and walking around.

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