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Local
Recommendation for Liberty Street replacement totals $37 million
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Recommendation for Liberty Street replacement totals $37 million

Recommendation for Liberty Street replacement totals $37 million
Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown
Liberty Street near Coastline Drive on Jacksonville's Northbank collapsed.

Recommendation for Liberty Street replacement totals $37 million

Jacksonville’s Northbank as you know it may be getting an overhaul.

WOKV has obtained a Public Works memo which details the “recommended plan forward” for Liberty Street and Coastline Drive following a large collapse earlier this year. The plan was presented Wednesday to the Council’s Finance Committee as part of the Mayor’s proposed Capital Improvement Program, and the panel gave it a green light. It’s still pending approval by the full Council as part of the final budget vote.

The CIP initially asked for $65 million dollars over several years, and WOKV learned that was based on the most recent estimate for replacing all of the currently affected structures with new ones. This memo instead recommends a $37 million overhaul that includes full demolition, but not as much replacement.

“This was the most ideal situation with regards to getting our waterfront fixed. It’s been an embarrassment, it’s been out there barricaded,” says the Mayor’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa.

Currently, the old Courthouse parking lot and bordering pieces of Liberty Street and Coastline Drive are shut, and an extension of Coastline in front of the Hyatt has restricted traffic. That’s a result of a massive hole which opened on Liberty earlier this year. The bridge- considered so because it is built over the river- had previously been rated ‘structurally deficient’, but there has been no definitive cause of the collapse identified at this time.

GALLERY:  Liberty Street collapses

The recommended plan forward detailed in the memo- and passed forward for a full Council vote- would demolish and rebuild Coastline Drive in front of the Hyatt, but not replace the portion between Market and Liberty. That portion of the road abuts the parking lot, which would also be demolished and not replaced. Liberty Street would be torn down and rebuilt, extending to the River to compensate for the loss of a portion of Coastline Drive. Finally, the plan includes rerouting the Northbank riverwalk around the new shoreline and providing streetscape improvements on that route.

In total, the estimate for this plan is just shy of $37 million. The document further states that the prices reflected here are already about 20% higher than an estimate from about five months ago because of an escalation in bids.

$5 million in pay-go- essentially available cash- was already requested in the CIP proposal. The intent is to keep that funding in the CIP, and then borrow the remaining $32 million over two years. Finance Chair Bill Gulliford says, while the City is trying to cut back on borrowing as much as possible, this is a justified and needed use.

“Enhance the area and take care of the problem we’ve got, and I think it’s a spark to development of that whole area,” he says.

Mousa says they are hoping to begin design shortly after the new budget takes effect in October, and have a 30-month construction plan after that.

Because these structures are technically considered bridges, the inspections have been done for this project by the Florida Department of Transportation. Spokesman Ron Tittle says they’ve been working with the City to the best of their ability, including recently moving up an inspection in order to give the new Administration more information when weighing the path forward.

Tittle says they’re also trying to step up financially as well- offering the potential for $7.5 million toward the City’s bill.

“We try to work with the City as much as we can there,” Tittle says.

He says the FDOT is currently waiting for the City to approve a plan, and when they do it will be considered in FDOT’s central office in Tallahassee to determine if that’s appropriate funding. Even if that’s signed off, Tittle says it’s targeted for their FY 20-21 work plan.

Mousa says, barring anything unforeseen, they intend to accept the FDOT funding as soon as the budget is approved. Because the funding is five years out, Mousa says the City would use it as reimbursement for the money they lay out.

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