PREVIOUS COVERAGE | County moving ahead on Fort Hamer bridge

MANATEE — Manatee County officials are quietly moving ahead with plans to build the proposed Fort Hamer bridge, which could be carrying traffic over the Manatee River in as little as 2 1/2 years.

Officials said Tuesday they have reached a tentative contract with a company to design the span, and are reviewing recently submitted proposals from eight parties interested in constructing it.

“It’s high on the priority list,” said Ron Schulhofer, the county’s public works director. “This is something we want to get accomplished sooner rather than later.”

Plans call for a 2,200-foot-long, two-lane bridge with 10-foot-wide shoulders on both sides and a five-foot-wide sidewalk on one side.

Fort Hamer and Upper Manatee River roads also would be extended by a combined 3,200 feet to connect to the new bridge.

County officials estimate designing the bridge will cost $4 million and constructing it will cost between $20 million and $28 million. Impact fees and money from a 2004 bond issue are expected to cover the cost.

Schulhofer said the county doesn’t have a timetable for completing construction, but the county’s capital improvement program (CIP) and a Web site owned by URS Corp. — the county’s top choice to design the bridge — offer differing dates. The Web site projects a summer 2012 opening, while the CIP shows construction ending in March 2013.

The timetable will depend on when the county approves a contract with URS and hires a construction manager, Schulhofer said.

The county attorney’s office is reviewing a tentative contract with URS that could be presented to county commissioners for their approval as soon as next month, said R.C. “Rob” Cuthbert, the county’s purchasing director.

By May, officials also hope to hire someone to perform “construction management at risk” services. Eight entities submitted proposals last month seeking the job, which includes constructing the bridge.

“Eight responses, that’s pretty good,” Cuthbert said.

Those submitting proposals were:

n A joint venture between Dooley Mack Constructors Inc. of Lakewood Ranch and Granite Construction Inc. of Tampa.

n Kraft Construction Co. of Sarasota.

n FHB Associates LLC, a joint venture involving local developers Pat Neal, Carlos Beruff and Michael Jacobson; Leware Construction Co. in Leesburg; and Frederick Derr & Co. in Sarasota.

n Jacobs Project Management Co. in Tampa.

n A joint venture between PCL Civil Constructors Inc. of Tampa and W.G. Mills of Sarasota.

n Cone & Graham Inc. of Tampa.

n A joint venture among Balfour Beatty Construction in Dallas; NDC Construction Co. of Bradenton; and WilsonMiller Inc., based in Naples.

n Superior Construction Co. Inc., based in Jacksonville.

Those entities gave preliminary estimates that the bridge and associated road improvements could cost anywhere from $16.8 million to $24 million, Cuthbert said.

But Schulhofer said those figures are preliminary and did not include all the same things, so they can’t be compared to each other.

Duane Marsteller, Herald reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630.