U.S. 301 bids lower than projected

MANATEE — Widening U.S. 301 south of Parrish could cost Manatee County significantly less than was expected.

A dozen companies seeking the job submitted bids Wednesday that ranged from $20.98 million to $26.68 million, well below the roughly $31 million the county estimated the project would cost.

“We were expecting (bids) to come in below that, but we didn’t know by how much,” said Jim Seuffert, the county’s financial management director, who attended the bid-opening meeting. “It was a pleasant surprise.”

Plans call for widening U.S. 301 between Erie Road/Old Tampa Road and County Road 675, a distance of about 3.7 miles, to four lanes with a median. Bicycle lanes, sidewalks, curbs and gutters and street lighting also will be added.

A contract could be awarded by April, with construction expected to begin sometime in the summer, said Pat Neal, of Neal Communities.

Neal’s company is a member of the North County Partnership, a group of 22 Parrish-area developers that formed a partnership with the county to speed up the road work so they can build their developments. The group paid for the design and donated right-of-way for the road project, helping reduce its cost.

“It looks like we did a good job for the taxpayers,” said Neal, adding the poor economy also helped lower bid prices. “This was the perfect time for this bid.”

Another plus: The two lowest bidders were local companies, Neal said. Woodruff & Sons Inc., of Bradenton, was the low bidder, followed by Prince Contracting, of Palmetto.

The state, through a grant, gas tax revenue and motor-vehicle registration fees, is footing about $18.5 million of the cost. The rest will come from developers and the county.

Construction was expected to start last year but was delayed by a nearby eagle’s nest and other issues. Work to relocate utilities already is underway, Neal said. Once construction starts, it’s expected to last about two years.

Duane Marsteller, transportation/growth and development reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630.