NAPLES — Collier’s wish list for federal stimulus funding for roads changed around a bit Friday, but the top priority remained.
The Collier Metropolitan Planning Organization kept the $55 million expansion of the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge at the top of the list when it held a public meeting to finalize the priorities.
However, the $4.7 million the county expects to get directly from the federal government for infrastructure improvements is no where near enough to complete the project.
The county would need part of the Florida Department of Transportation’s stimulus cut as well.
“The $4.7 million will accomplish absolutely nothing,” Collier County Commissioner Fred Coyle said during Friday’s meeting. “Our obligation is to squeeze as much money from the state.”
He added that the county’s job is also to use as much of the stimulus money to “stimulate the economy.”
The stimulus package would send the state about $1.34 billion for highway and bridge projects, according to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Of these funds, $902 million will be spent for state priorities at FDOT’s discretion a portion would go to local governments and about about $40.4 million would go to enhancement projects throughout the state.
To reduce the cost of the Jolley Bridge construction to about $25 million, the county could do half the project by building one span first, Florida Department of Transportation Southwest Area Director Johnny Limbaugh said.
Marco Island City Council Chairman William Trotter said the bridge is a priority.
“It’s a significant project that is way overdue,” Trotter said.
Apart from resolving traffic congestion in the future, the bridge is a top health and safety concern because it’s rated to sustain Category 3 hurricanes and it’s a major evacuation route. The current bridge has no emergency lane.
The MPO voted 6-2 to approve the proposed changes to the economic stimulus list.
Two weeks ago, Collier’s Metropolitan Planning Organization board voted unanimously to make the expansion of the Jolley Bridge its top priority of potential projects for federal funding.
State and local officials remain unsure what projects will get money.
The rest of Collier County’s top five funding priorities are:
n State Road 84 expansion project from Radio Road to Collier Boulevard
n Collier Boulevard expansion project from State Road 84 to Golden Gate Canal
n State Road 84 expansion project from Santa Barbara to Radio Road
n Stormwater improvements to address flooding on Country Barn Road, including Davis Boulevard to Rattlesnake Hammock Road
Of the 60 projects that were ranked for to receive economic stimulus, 18 were “production ready.”
If projects aren’t “shovel ready” FDOT will skip them and move to the next item.
Limbaugh said the department is working to get projects ready.
Under the terms, Limbaugh explained that 50 percent of the money that comes to the MPO has to be obligated and ready to go within 120 days.
Aside from approving changes to the economic stimulus list, the MPO had to add some of the projects to its Transportation Improvement Plan so they could qualify for funding.
The vote to add the projects passed 7-1.
The public comment period on the amended Transportation Improvement Plan for fiscal 2008/09 to fiscal 2012/13 began on Feb. 10 and will continue through March 10.
Collier County MPO Director Phil Tindall said substantial comments are expected and will be brought forward at a subsequent meeting.
After the meeting, Tindall said that if none of these projects could be funded, he could imagine the county completing smaller bridge projects.