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Commissioners approve design bid for toll plaza

By Staff | Jan 6, 2009

Conversion of the Midpoint Plaza toll facility from a two-way to a one-way in all eastbound lanes is moving forward.
Lee County commissioners approved one of three design bids for the project at their meeting Tuesday, awarding the $994,000 project to California-based URS Corporation.
URS beat out Tampa-based PBS&J, and Cape-based Avalon Engineering Inc. The winning bid effectively provides a consultant to compete the design for the toll plaza conversion.
The project includes the removal of the eastbound canopy, removal of all eastbound toll islands, conversion of a portion of the plaza tunnel on the eastbound side and necessary design for all paving, signage and markings as needed.
The design also will include the incorporation of two westbound, open road toll lanes for those who use LeeWay.
The item passed 4-1 with Commissioner Brian Bigelow dissenting. Bigelow was concerned with the process by which the design company was selected.
The Competitive Negotiations Committee, which is made up of county staffers, reviews and ultimately accepts the bids.
“I think there’s a better way to make this fairer to folks,” Bigelow said. “There is no criteria established by the selection committee to see how they’re coming to their conclusions.”
County staff, including Public Works Director Jim Lavender and Deputy Director of Transportation Paul Wingard, defended the process. They said the selection meeting was open to the public.
“Admittedly there is no criteria, but it (the meeting) certainly is open to the public,” Wingard said.
Commissioner Frank Mann, who attended several of the committee meetings to “get a feel for the process,” did not support Bigelow’s observation that the selection process was not functioning properly.
He suggested Bigelow come up with his own set of suggestions for revamping the process.
“We don’t seem to be gaining any ground with pulling the item and getting a 4-1 vote,” he said. “I’d be open to Commissioner Bigelow’s suggestions.”
The project’s total cost comes in at an estimated $10 million, a price tag that does not include seven change orders for the plaza’s design.
There is no start date announced for the construction of the one-way toll plazas.