The designs are done, the money is available, but it will take the state another three months to put the $28.3 million expansion of Marco Island’s Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge out to bid.
“What we don’t want to do is put every project out for bid in one month,” Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman Debbie Tower said of the backlog the agency is facing thanks to an influx of federal stimulus money. “That’s not realistic.”
The project qualified for stimulus money because it was “shovel-ready,” meaning all the pieces were in place for construction to start except for funding. The “shovel-ready” requirement was attached to the stimulus bill to infuse cash into the economy quickly. Construction of the bridge will generate about 800 jobs, FDOT officials have said.
But putting too many projects out to bid at once could cause problems, Tower said.
“We are staggering our bids somewhat so that we don’t literally overwhelm the construction industry,” Tower said.
Tower added that the state also wants to continue looking for “very competitive bids.”
The project will go out to bid in August, FDOT District Secretary Stan Cann said during a recent Collier Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting. Cann said construction could start in the fall.
When asked by Naples City Council and Metropolitan Planning Organization member Bill Willkomm if the new employees would be locals, Cann said they weren’t allowed to give any preference to who gets hired.
The federal money will help build a new two-lane bridge next to the existing bridge, making two lanes each way. It also will pay to rehab the current bridge and for the road work necessary for the new bridge.
The expansion is expected to resolve traffic congestion in high season and rush hour. It will also help Marco resolve a top health and safety concern because the current bridge is rated to sustain Category 3 hurricanes and it’s a major evacuation route. The current bridge also has no emergency lane.
The new bridge reduces the possibility of a bridge shut down due to a traffic accident.
“Receiving these funds was Marco Island’s last best chance to get a new bridge without a toll,” said William Trotter, chairman for the Marco Island City Council and Metropolitan Planning Organization member.
Originally, the plan was to tear down the existing bridge and build two new spans, each having two lanes at a cost of about $55 million.
To reduce the cost, officials opted to do half the project by building one span.
FDOT is taking the existing design plans and modifying them, while still adding capacity to the Jolley Bridge, Tower said.