NEW PORT RICHEY — Railroad Square, the long-anticipated streetscaping project, is coming around the bend.
City Council members, sitting as directors of the Community Redevelopment Agency, approved this week a $457,151 construction bid by Palm Harbor-based R.A.M. Excavating to build the first phase of the project.
That low bid — one of six that the city received — is well under the construction budget of $545,000.
Construction should start in about six weeks and finish up in six months, city officials say.
The improvements, which would cover the stretch of Nebraska Avenue between Grand Boulevard and Adams Street, include the addition of brick-patterned pavement, decorative streetlights, trees, planters and drainage work. Also included are some decorative railroad crossings that would be used to close off Nebraska for special events.
"It's a small amount, just the beginning," said Council member Bob Consalvo. "But I think once we get going ... this may be a catalyst to get other things going as well."
Railroad Square is aimed at bringing pedestrians downtown and showcasing New Port Richey's heritage as a booming railroad town in the early 1920s. Officials also hope that the project will spur private investments by property owners along that corridor.
Five years ago, residents and downtown merchants started hearing about the idea for the project. But there were few concrete details until the city hired its first consultant.
The news the city got in 2006 wasn't good. Officials had planned to spend $1-million on Railroad Square but learned it would cost at least twice as much.
This news came amid soaring costs for other city projects, including the new recreation center, and led to talk of shelving Railroad Square indefinitely. But council members in July 2006 approved a conceptual plan to build the project in four phases as money became available. Putting that entire plan into action would carry a price tag of $4.5-million, according to estimates at the time.
In 2006, officials paid about $100,000 to hire another consultant, URS, which spent nearly a year refining plans for the first phase of construction.
Of the six construction bids submitted to the city, four were under budget.
This is the second major city project that has come in lower than anticipated. The $4.8-million bid on a new public works facility, which breaks ground on Friday, came in well below the $6.5-million the city had budgeted.
"Now is the time, it appears, to get things done," said Consalvo. "The money is right now."
Jodie Tillman can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6247.