TREASURE ISLAND — There are a lot of "ifs" involved, but above-ground utility lines along south Gulf Boulevard may disappear beginning in 2015.
That is when the state Department of Transportation is planning a major Gulf Boulevard resurfacing project from 99th Avenue to 105th Avenue.
Last month, the DOT offered to include the city's long-anticipated project to put utility lines underground in its bidding process, potentially saving the city significant money.
Based on previous estimates, it could cost up to about $7 million to bury utilities along a mile of Gulf Boulevard. The southern portion of Gulf Boulevard represents about half that distance.
Utilities are already underground along much of northern Gulf Boulevard between 104th and 199th avenues.
"The commission's intention right now is to do what we can with the $3.7 million. We are hoping it is sufficient to do south Gulf Boulevard," City Manager Reid Silverboard said.
By joining in on the DOT bid, the city would not be responsible for the cost of resurfacing the portions of Gulf Boulevard dug up to bury the lines — and could benefit from a potential overall lower cost for putting the lines underground.
"We do not want to go in two to three years from now and tear up and remill and resurface again," Silverboard said.
He told the commission the city has about a year to decide if it wants to include the project in DOT's larger project bidding, scheduled for early 2014. Construction would begin in 2015.
"It would be a huge savings not to have to resurface," said Commissioner Alan Bildz.
A unanimous commission agreed to take the first step — getting an estimate for engineering plans to bury utility lines along the half-mile section of Gulf Boulevard.
Silverboard said he expects a proposal from the city's engineering firm by the end of January and will present it to the commission in February for further discussion.
The total project cost also involves acquiring easements outside the road right-of-way for transformer and meter boxes, reconnecting businesses and residences to the various utilities, and restoring affected rights-of-way.
If the city goes ahead with engineering the project, the next hurdle would be finding a way to pay for it, Silverboard said.
The county has agreed to give beach communities from St. Pete Beach to Clearwater Beach about $35 million in Penny for Pinellas money over the next seven years to bury utilities underground along Gulf Boulevard.
Treasure Island is scheduled to receive about $3.7 million from that pot beginning in 2014. Most of the money would not be received until the last three years.
"I think it is a good idea," Bildz said. "If we can save enough, we may have enough to do the northern part of Gulf Boulevard, too. Let's see how much this will cost. We need it all done."