TREASURE ISLAND – In an effort to save the city about $100,000 per year in maintenance costs, Treasure Island leaders are set to begin discussions with the city of St. Petersburg about a possible transfer of ownership of the east end of the Treasure Island Causeway.
The potential deal would serve many purposes.
First, any transfer would hinge on Treasure Island agreeing to install a possible toll gantry west of the bascule bridge. This would allow residents of Yacht Club Estates and Causeway Isles, who live within the city of St. Petersburg, to avoid paying tolls to and from their homes.
Second, St. Petersburg would take over maintenance of the section, which stretches from Sunset Drive to the bascule bridge.
Third, construction would begin on a redesign of the section to allow for an extension of the Pinellas Trail westward into Treasure Island.
Financing for the project would come primarily from Treasure Island, which recently was awarded a $1.2 million grant from the state of Florida. However, the projected cost is $1.5 million, creating a $300,000 budget gap. The question is which city will pay the difference and how that amount may be negotiated.
During a discussion on the topic Oct. 3, Commissioner Larry Lunn said he was in favor of giving up the east causeway, calling it a “city liability.”
Commissioner Ken Keys agreed.
“This (land transfer) would take a burden off our backs for many years,” Keys said. But the idea of Treasure Island paying the entire cost override of the project didn’t sit well with him.
“I’m in favor of making a small contribution, but not the whole $300,000,” Keys said.
“I think we should focus on the $300,000 and where it’s going to come from,” said Commissioner Ralph Kennedy.
Mayor Bob Minning said he favored having St. Petersburg pick up all of the additional $300,000 cost.
“We don’t know what (cost overrun) is going to be,” he said. “Whatever the gap is, the city of St. Petersburg should take care of it.”
Treasure Island has yet to decide if tolls will return to the causeway. The legal status of such a move is still being evaluated but one thing remains certain. If the east causeway transfer to St. Petersburg takes place, the $100,000 annual savings in maintenance would be an important boost to the city’s bridge maintenance and replacement fund.
A new bridge, which would be necessary in about 45 years, would cost a minimum of $50 million, based on the price tag of the current bridge 10 years ago.
In other action, commissioners:
• Agreed to pay a $61,500 fee to the Williams Law Group, which has been contracted to get clarification from the Federal Highway Administration on the city’s ability to reinstate tolls to the Treasure Island Causeway. In an Aug. 17 email from the FHWA, the city was given a list of five ways a return to tolls would be acceptable. The question attorney Thornton Williams is seeking is if the city qualifies under any of those five criteria. The city accepted a $50 million federal grant for the current bridge, but with the stipulation that tolls would not return to the causeway.
• Voted unanimously to increase City Clerk Tiffany Makras’ salary from $63,000 per year to $65,520. The amount represents a 4 percent merit-based increase.