New Approach Will Allow Partial Work on Alachua

By Mike Lednovich

The long-anticipated opening of Alachua Street to Front Street has met yet another bump in the road, this time escalating construction costs.

A crucial stormwater capture and release system into the Amelia River was originally priced at $1.9 million in 2018.

But Fernandina Beach Interim City Manager Charlie George reported that the current estimate now stands at $7.3 million and the city does not have the money to fully fund the project.

“I’ve aged on this one,” George told members of the Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board (CRAAB) Wednesday. “There’s been a lot of angst over that (the project).”

Businesses along the Alachua Street and North Second Street corridor have put renovation and development plans on hold while waiting for what is designated as the Area 5 stormwater project to be completed.

Currently, Alachua Street is a dead end at the railroad tracks when driving west towards the river.

City officials maintain opening the Alachua Street crossing will provide for better traffic circulation (both vehicular and pedestrian) and support the economic redevelopment of several properties within the area of North Front Street, Alachua Street and North Second Street.

The project was originally scheduled to be completed last July.

George walked CRAAB members through the history of the project:

  • 2017 – The city awarded the design bid to CPH Inc. and George said the stormwater pump station would cost $1 million and the boring system under the railroad crossing would be another $400,000 as major components of the work.
  • July 2021 – TG Utilities is issued a notice to proceed with construction, which placed the cost at $2.4 million. TG Utilities purchased a pump station, transformer and generator, valves, piping and the water storage vaults. “We’ve gone through the angst with the rest of us. It took them (TG Utilities) forever to get going. We could not get them to mobilize to get the big work done,” George said of the project which made little headway.
  • 2023 – The city terminates its contact with TG Utilities.
  • 2023 – The city contracts with CDC Contracting for a price on the project. Pricing for the project took four months to complete, and George said the estimate came in this week, and “it’s a stunner, $7.3 million.”

“We’re going back to grants to try to meet that price ($7.3 million). I don’t know if the $7.3 million is the actual number because we just went out to that one guy (CDC), so we’ll put  the whole thing out for competitive bid.”

George said the city has the original $1.4 million budgeted for the project, as well as funding from other projects like $818,000 from ARPA funds to Area 5. That would fund a revised plan to get the road work, curbs, sidewalks and railroad crossing done to open the street, minus installation of the underground stormwater system. “We’ve got the money to finish this part of it, and our plan is to finish it by the end of the calendar year to get you up and running from a business standpoint,” George said.

George said the road design for connecting Alachua to Front Street is done. “The railroad is going to put in the crossings and do the paving across the railroad tracks,” he said.

The original project entailed the construction of the underground stormwater collection and treatment system first, to which area properties would be permitted to purchase “stormwater capacity” instead of requiring such treatment on each site. Once the stormwater improvements were completed, under the original plan, construction of the road, including sidewalks and streetscape, and a new railroad crossing could begin.

George said the new plan has been re-engineered and revised.

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Bob
Noble Member
Bob(@bob)
15 days ago

Maybe cut Broome through instead?

SnappyClam
SnappyClam(@joesnappyclam-com)
15 days ago

Good thing, this isn’t a playground.

Jason Collins
Noble Member
Jason Collins(@jc18holes)
15 days ago

Informative article Mike! Who would have thought it could cost so much to put that crossing in!?

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