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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Mar. 29, 201806:20 AM EST

City takes steps to remove Hart Bridge Expressway

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City still awaiting a decision for federal grant funds that would help pay for project.
by: David Cawton Associate Editor

A 1.2-mile stretch of the Hart Bridge Expressway leading into Downtown could soon be demolished as the city begins negotiations with a contractor to develop a Design Criteria Package and a Request for Proposal in preparation to remove the roadway.

The mayor’s office is expected to select New York-based contractor STV Inc. to begin preliminary work on the estimated $50 million project which would remove a section of the elevated highway above Gator Bowl Boulevard next to TIAA Bank Field.

The city’s Professional Services Evaluation Committee is anticipated to recommend using the company at its meeting today after the committee scored STV’s response to the Jan. 22 Request For Proposal higher than other bidders.

Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. and HDR Engineering Inc. also submitted responses. The Daily Record has requested copies of the RFP responses and scores.

According to a description of the RFP, specifications include, but are not limited to, “the preparation of a Design Criteria Package and RFP for the removal of a section of the Hart Expressway from approximately Liberty Street to east of Festival Park Avenue, construction of roadway and intersection improvements on Bay Street from the Hogan’s Creek Bridge to east of Festival Park Avenue, and construction of new ramps connecting Bay Street to the Hart Expressway at the west end and Bay Street to the Hart Bridge approach at the east end.

“The consultant will serve as the city’s representative during the project duration, assist through any necessary National Environmental Policy Act processes, assist in the evaluation of design-build proposals and any other required professional services required of the city or in support of the Florida Department of Transportation involvement that may occur as part of this project.”

City spokeswoman Tia Ford said the Design Criteria Package and RFP are part of a city-funded first phase of the project which “includes the removal of the bridge and associated components.”

The lanes above Gator Bowl Boulevard flow traffic into Downtown at East Adams and East Duval streets. Drivers exiting the urban core get to the bridge from East Forsyth and East Monroe streets.

The highway bisects the stadium complex and Metropolitan Park. Jaguars owner Shad Khan has supported the plan to remove the expressway and said his proposal to develop the park and the Shipyards property would drastically change if the elevated roadway remained.

At the request of Mayor Lenny Curry, the Florida Department of Transportation conducted a $250,000 study to explore the possible ramifications of eliminating the elevated roadway.

FDOT found that reconfiguring the road would have a positive effect on freight traffic coming and going from the Talleyrand port area.

Although the estimated $50 million project is not fully funded, Ford said the city can begin the first phase with state and local contributions.

The state approved $12.5 million for the “Talleyrand Connector” in its 2018-19 budget. Ford said the city is prepared to pay its $12.5 million portion as well.

Jacksonville is one of three Florida municipalities seeking a $25 million Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

A DOT spokesman said previously the department would notify the applicants of its decision over the summer, at the earliest.

Curry made trips to Washington, D.C., in November and March to lobby lawmakers and federal transportation officials to support the project.

Curry’s Chief of Staff Brian Hughes said those conversations were positive.

He said the project is not contingent on the DOT grant, since the city always planned to use those funds for later phases of work after the ramps had been removed.

STV Inc. has corporate headquarters in Douglassville, Pennsylvania, and New York City. It operates 38 offices in 18 states, the District of Columbia and Toronto.

The company has an office at 5200 Belfort Road in South Jacksonville.

According to its website, STV has experience working on highway and bridge projects; building schools, corporate and industrial facilities; rail transportation; building military barracks; and residential, retail and hospitality developments, among other projects.

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