The County Commission recently approved preferred alternatives to complete Project Development and Environmental Studies for replacements of the Dunedin Causeway bridges and Riviera Bay Bridge in St. Petersburg.
Commissioner Karen Seel voted no.
Assistant County Administrator Jake Stowers said picking alternatives so the studies could be completed did not obligate the commission to move forward with construction. For both projects, commissioners picked the alternative preferred by the public and the cities.
Seel said she couldn’t support the alternatives due to concerns about federal funding dedicated to bridges. She also is worried about money for annual costs.
Assistant County Administrator Rahim Harji confirmed that since the state had changed the formula, federal money allocated to projects is now less than what was typically awarded in the past. He said federal funding had been available to pay for about 80 percent of project costs.
Harji said a completed study is necessary to go after grants, federal, state and others. Until the study is finished, staff can’t begin to seek funding.
At issue is that the alternatives for both bridge projects are the most expensive. The mid-level movable alternative for the Dunedin Causeway Bridge would cost an estimated $81 million. Costs for operations and maintenance would be about $231,000 annually, about the same as the county pays for the current bridge.
By comparison, a high-level fixed bridge would cost an estimated $60 million and a low-level movable bridge $77 million. A major rehabilitation project would cost $31 million and extend the serviceable life of the bridge by about 25 years.
The east alignment for the Riviera Bay Bridge, which is the preferred alternative, would cost an estimated $13.75 million, compared to the estimated cost of a west alignment at $12.29 million and the center alignment at $11.37 million.