ST. PETERSBURG — Northern St. Petersburg's growth requires an expansion of one of its main drags.
In its largest road project in 20 years, the city is expanding 2 miles of Gandy Boulevard, from Gateway Center to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N. The work is needed to accommodate traffic coming from office and industrial development that has been built in the area since the 1980s.
The widening will include, in both directions, a 12-foot-wide vehicle lane and a 5-foot-wide paved shoulder that can be used as a bike lane. It will also create an intersection at 16th Street, which has been a hot spot for crashes.
"It will help facilitate growth in the future," said Dave Goodwin, the city's director of Planning and Economic Development. "Right now, the road is a free-for-all at rush hour. It's a mess."
The City Council voted unanimously Thursday to award a $5.6 million contract to R.E. Purcell Construction Co., which submitted the lowest of six bids for the project. Purcell, out of Largo, estimates it can do the job for $700,000 less than what the city projected it would cost.
"Contractors right now are just trying to stay alive," said Mike Connors, the city's public works director. "There's probably no profit in this contract."
It will take about two weeks to complete the contract, and the road construction should begin by May. It's expected to take about 13 months to complete, Connors said.
Gandy right now is two lanes both ways along this stretch. Construction may cause some inconvenience for motorists, but the city will try to avoid major traffic tie ups by keeping two lanes open in each direction. One of the lanes on each side will be the paved shoulder, Connors said.
Overall, the project will cost $6.7 million; about $4 million is from a federal grant with the rest coming from developer impact fees, Connors said.
The development producing most of the traffic is called the Gateway Areawide Development of Regional Impact, or DRI. The City Council approved it in 1989 despite the objections of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, which called the project too vague.
DRIs are specially designated projects by the state that, because they are so large, require more scrutiny before they can get approval. Usually, DRIs represent a single developer's project. But with Gateway Areawide, the city is the applicant and represents multiple landowners. The city hopes to encourage development in the Gateway area by handling many of the permitting issues through the DRI process, making it easier for private developers to build.
The DRI's total size is about 1,650 acres, and it allows for 2.9 million square feet of office, 2.3 million square feet of industrial, 150,000 square feet of retail, and 4,400 residential units. It's already half built, said Goodwin, and includes the headquarters for Valpak of Tampa Bay and New Advantage Corp., which distributes electrical components.
Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or firstname.lastname@example.org.