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Cost to widen Hernando's Cortez Boulevard goes up $132,000

The cost to prepare for the eventual widening of busy Cortez Boulevard has just gone up by about $132,000.

Even though the road project isn't expected to begin within the next five years, Hernando County utilities officials faced a tight deadline from the Florida Department of Transportation to submit their plan on how they will move water and sewer lines to accommodate the construction.

That deadline meant that utilities director Joe Stapf recently had to ask the County Commission to approve a pricey change order for the design engineer.

That sort of solution has riled commissioners in the past because project costs grew and because, in some cases, instead of expanding the scope of work for a company already on board, the county could have gotten a better deal by bidding out the second piece of the job.

But in this case, Stapf told commissioners, there just wasn't time.

The widening project will stretch from U.S. 19 to the Suncoast Parkway and is divided into two phases, with Mariner Boulevard the dividing point.

Last year, when the county received plans from the state outlining impacts along Phase 1 from U.S. 19 to Mariner, officials sought professional proposals to begin designing the utility line moves. They hired Pigeon-Roberts & Associates and agreed to a design cost of $194,000.

Several months later, they saw preliminary plans for the second phase of the project, and those showed few impacts on the location of existing utility lines, Stapf said.

But that changed late this spring when the county received new, more detailed plans for the section from Mariner to the parkway. While that leg is shorter, the need to move utilities along that stretch is much greater, he said.

And the DOT is giving the county only until September to provide a proposal for moving the utility lines.

"It's pretty frustrating to have this deadline," he said.

Without time to advertise again for an engineer, Stapf said he did the only other thing he could do: seek a price quote from Pigeon-Roberts & Associates. The cost is about $132,000.

Stapf said that, given the circumstances, he feels good about the price even if he doesn't feel good about being backed into a corner.

He attributes the cost, which is well below the first part of the project even though it means more work, to the fact that "they're already all geared up and working in the area."

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Cost to widen Hernando's Cortez Boulevard goes up $132,000 07/24/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 24, 2010 10:47am]
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