Bigger ship traffic might find smoother sailing to Jacksonville port terminals by summer 2016 now that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to seek bids to fix the Mile Point passage.
The construction could cost $25 million to $50 million, according to the Corps’ pre-solicitation posted Wednesday. A pre-solicitation is a heads up to contractors that a bid advertisement is on the way.
The Corps intends to advertise the bids Dec. 15 and bid responses would be due in 60 days, which Corps project manager Jason Harrah said would be Feb. 12.
The project would be awarded in March or April for a construction timetable of 12-18 months, indicating completion in summer or fall of 2016.
Harrah said the Corps hopes to complete the project by the summer of 2016.
The St. Johns River and Intracoastal Waterway intersect at Mile Point, creating crosscurrents that limit the passage of larger ships during ebb tide, the period between high and low tides.
The Corps posted a pre-solicitation Wednesday for contractors interested in reconfiguring the training wall at Mile Point. The work consists of relocating and reconfiguring the existing training walls; dredging the confluence area; and marine animal, bird and turbidity monitoring as well as other demolition, clearing and grubbing.
For information about the Mile Point project, visit fedbizopps.gov and search in Florida.
It’s been a long-awaited marine and economic development project that supporters say will open the port to more and larger ships, increasing imports and exports, leading to more jobs and construction of logistics centers.
“More cargo in turn brings industry and related jobs to Northeast Florida and
that’s what it’s all about,” said JaxPort spokeswoman Nancy Rubin.
In 2012, the Corps had estimated the cost to fix Mile Point at $36.5 million, but those costs would be different today.
In describing the issues with Mile Point, the Corps said the crosscurrents on the ebb tide create navigational restrictions that affect inbound ships with a draft greater than 33 feet and outbound vessels with a draft more than 36 feet.
JaxPort said the strong currents threaten large container ships whose heavy cargo makes them less navigable, creating a potential safety hazard as well as significant delays where ships are forced to wait for high tides.
JaxPort, which said it and the state have been working with the federal government to work on a fix for Mile Point since 2006, said funding for the project is in place from the state.
In January 2013, Gov. Rick Scott announced a commitment of $36 million in state funding for construction of the project.
JaxPort and the Corps each paid for half of the $2 million preconstruction design and engineering work before then, Rubin said.
Harrah said no federal funding was available this year for the construction of Mile Point, which the Corps wants to complete before the much larger and more expensive St. Johns River deepening and dredging project.
Harrah and Florida Rep. Lake Ray said the state could be reimbursed for Mile Point through future federal funding.
The fix for Mile Point is part of the overall focus by the port and city to deepen the St. Johns River to accommodate larger ships, especially those that can navigate the Panama Canal after its expansion is completed next year.
“Let’s get it done because it is so vital to our port and our community,” said Ray, who also is president of the First Coast Manufacturers Association.
Ray said the state’s funding for the Mile Point project flowed from federal transportation funding.
“Let us pay for that and see what we can get paid on the deepening project,” he said.
The federal Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 provided authorization for the Mile Point project and separately for the deepening of the St. Johns River.
Ray said he would be working on funding for the deepening in the next legislative session.
Rubin said the total deepening project is calculated at $684 million. The cost would be shared among federal, state and local governments. She said the Corps is designing the project.
Crocker doesn’t protest Citizens bid
Crocker Partners did not file a protest against the Citizens Property Insurance Corp. decision to negotiate space at EverBank Center Downtown.
The protest period expired at 5 p.m. Nov. 24. That clears the way for the Citizens Property Board of Governors to take action on the Jacksonville consolidation at its regularly scheduled meeting Dec. 10.
“The board is expected to finalize the move to the EverBank Center,” said spokesman Michael Peltier, who said Citizens Property received no additional correspondence from Crocker since the notice of intent to protest was filed Nov. 10.
Crocker Partners, which owns the Prominence office center in Baymeadows, is the runner-up for the Citizens Property lease.
Citizens Property, a state insurance provider, decided Nov. 6 to negotiate with Amkin West Bay LLC, the owner of EverBank Center, for a 950-job operations center.
Citizens Property said if that deal didn’t work, it would negotiate with Crocker Partners.
Josh Edwards, vice president of Crocker Partners V Freedom LLC, said previously the filing was made to preserve Crocker’s rights in the event a protest was needed. He did not return a telephone call Monday to talk about the decision to not protest.