Shelby Hughes of Kimley-Horn, a planning and engineering consultant, discusses the city of St. Pete Beach sanitary sewer expansion project with residents during a January 2020 forum. Construction on the final phase of the project, which is along Gulf Boulevard, is expected to begin soon and be completed by the end of the year.

ST. PETE BEACH — It’s been a long and winding road, but construction on the final phase of the city’s sanitary sewer system upgrade along Gulf Boulevard is expected to begin the middle of this month and be completed by the end of the year.

Construction along Gulf Boulevard began at Gulf Winds Drive in October 2020, with the work completed in phases. According to Sarah Laracuente, St. Pete Beach public information officer, the $16,825,900 sewer project includes installation of a new sanitary sewer force main ranging in size from 16” pipe to 30” pipe.

“We are also installing four new sanitary sewer lift stations along Gulf Boulevard at 44th, 50th, 55th, and 59th avenues. The new pipes will add much needed flow capacity to the city’s system,” she said.

The project is being funded with a $12,950,000 low-interest state revolving fund loan, 2015 debt proceeds of $3,452,000 and $423,900 in local reserves.

At a ceremony breaking ground on the sewer project, City Manager Alex Rey said, “It’s so important for the function of the city to have a proper sewer system and this is going to allow not only an improvement to the environment because it’s going to eliminate … our overflows, but it’s going to allow for additional development in the city.”

Laracuente explained that the final phase of the sewer project will impact motorists who “can expect lane closures on Gulf Boulevard and periodic congestion on connecting roadways as the remainder of construction progresses towards completion.”

 “Motorists traveling on Gulf Boulevard will encounter hard road closures while crews are installing the new pipes. Motorists traveling to destinations on the west side of Gulf Boulevard, adjacent to these lane closures, will need to proceed past their destination and make a U-turn to get around the construction,” she added.

Mayor Alan Johnson said currently the only place that there is a street corner closed is at 87th Avenue and Boca Ciega Drive, so a connection can be made by pump station one. The rest of Boca Ciega, all the way down to Gulf Boulevard and Gulf Winds Drive, is open, passable and restored. He added there are hopes of repaving this section of roadway maybe this fall. The city hopes to get some funding from the recently enacted congressional stimulus recovery package, which could pay for infrastructure projects such as resurfacing, paving and other projects.

It’s expected that work will start on Gulf Boulevard at 37th Avenue working north to 55th Avenue connecting to pump station 2 by June or July.

The final big phase of the sewer system upgrade involves underground boring; it entails putting the huge pipe under Gulf Boulevard. That may be started this week or next, the mayor said in an April 8 video on the city website. “There is going to be some disruption of traffic flow,” Johnson said.

The need for a total upgrade to the city’s sewer system came about after inadequacies were identified in November 2014. At that time the city was placed under a consent order by the state Department of Environmental Protection for what was seen as its inadequate sewage system.

The city then conducted a study to prove its existing sewer system was operating at above capacity in critical locations. In 2016, the city adopted a moratorium to prevent new development or redevelopment that would increase sewer flow until additional capacity was provided to help ensure sanitary sewer overflows do not occur. This long-awaited project is designed to increase sewer capacity, which will allow new development and redevelopment projects to take plan. The city believes the end of the moratorium will attract investors looking to build or remodel hotels and other businesses.

The first hotel developer to submit a site plan has already presented a design concept to city commissioners. The developer proposes to demolish a one- and two-story 27-room motel structure built in 1953 at 4200 Gulf Blvd. and build the Miramar Resort, a 6-story, 54-room luxury resort with a rooftop lounge. Developers bought the Miramar property in 2017 and have been waiting to be able to build the project ever since.

“As of the commencement date of the sewer upgrade project, businesses can now pull permits, however they cannot obtain a certificate of occupancy until the sewer project is completed,” said Laracuente. “This sewer project will add capacity to the city’s sanitary sewer system. Additional sewer improvements may be needed to support individual projects, but that will be determined on a case-by-case basis during the permit review process for each project. “ 

Laracuente added the major sewer system upgrade “allows for new projects, such as the east Corey residential development, and redevelopment of hotel properties like the Miramar and Tradewinds to be developed within the guidelines of our Comprehensive Development Master Plan.”