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Treasure Island budgets underground utilities
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Photo by BOB McCLURE
Cluttered utility poles along North Gulf Boulevard may soon be replaced by underground utilities.
TREASURE ISLAND – City commissioners moved forward Feb. 18 on a plan to place utilities underground along Gulf Boulevard from 118th Avenue north to John’s Pass in Treasure Island.

Funding will come from the city’s $3.77 million allotment of Gulf Boulevard beautification funds from Pinellas County, pending approval by the Barrier Island Governmental Council.

Jerry Dabkowski, assistant vice president of Michael Baker Inc., which is providing consulting services on the project, said the Florida Department of Transportation plans two resurfacing and drainage upgrade projects along Gulf Boulevard beginning in January 2015. One of those projects would encompass the north end of Gulf Boulevard and the other would target the south end.

He recommended the city and Duke Energy partner with FDOT on the north end to cut costs and get the job done more efficiently.

“The north end of Gulf Boulevard has the least amount of utility converts, if you want to go underground,” Dabkowski said. “There are essentially 17 Duke poles existing out there now, which is not a whole lot of poles. The south end has 118 poles, which would make that very difficult to convert due to additional issues with Bright House and Verizon.”

He said the north end presents no problems for Verizon and Bright House because the two utilities already have underground lines in the area.

“We asked Duke what method they would use and they discussed open cut, which is basically tearing up the asphalt, trying to do that before DOT comes in, or another method called directional drill, which is essentially where they will go under the pavement three feet to nine feet,” said Dabkowski. “So Duke said directional drill is the way they want to go. It’s the least disruptive and beats the schedule of DOT.”

Dabowski said the most cost effective way to go is under the alley between Gulf Boulevard and Lagoon Lane. Earlier discussion centered around putting the utilities under Lagoon Lane.

“I’ve walked that area and by far it (alley) is a very good place to put these utilities,” Dabkowski said. “They’ll come up at each side street – 122nd, 123rd, 124th – with a transformer box or an underground box. So it was decided Lagoon is out and the alley makes more sense and actually costs less.”

Dabkowski said residents in the area won’t be disrupted.

“The citizens essentially will not even know they’re doing this,” he said. “There’s no disruption foundations, there’s no vibrations. An auger will go under the pavement and come back up where (the line) it ties into a transformer or a junction box.”

Duke has given the city a binding estimate of $1.16 million, which is good through May 25. Verizon and Bright House have no issues with the project but Dabkowksi said it would be a good idea to budget $10,000 for each utility in contigency funds in the event something unexpected occurs.

Since additional funds would be left, Dabkowski recommended spending about $1 million to upgrade the surface and drainage structures along Lagoon Lane.

With additional funds, Dabkowski proposes new decorative lights for Gulf Boulevard from 105th to 125th Avenue at a cost of $800,000. The remaining $740,000 would be put aside for contingency expense.

“DOT will start the first part of January 2015,” Dabkowski said. “So that told us if we want to be out there at the same time, we need to get going.”

He said Duke would need about six months to complete its portion of the project. Stormwater drain work, he said, would take six to nine months.

“I’m all for it,” said Commissioner Phil Collins. “I think it’s fair.”
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