Kimley-Horn consulting firm wins City of Sarasota contract for Pine Place roundabout project

No construction timeline has been set

A graphic shows the planned location of the roundabout at the intersection of Pine Place and Ringling Boulevard in Sarasota. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

On Jan. 4, the Sarasota City Commission took a formal step toward the construction of the next roundabout, which will occur at the intersection of Pine Place and Ringling Boulevard, across from the U.S. Post Office in downtown Sarasota.

Kimley-Horn, which has offices in Sarasota and Tampa, won the $250,300 contract for consulting engineering services for the project. That contract says the firm will be “responsible for creating detailed construction drawings and all documentation needed to support the design” and that it also will be responsible for bidding out the project.

The $250,300 will come out of the city’s penny sales tax revenue, a city staff memo added.

That memo in the Jan. 4 agenda packet further explained that the city was successful in obtaining funding from the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to “continue the chain of single lane downtown roundabouts.”

When The Sarasota News Leader checked the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Five Year Work Program this week, it found that the department had allocated $95,000 to the Pine Place roundabout initiative for this fiscal year, for preliminary engineering and environmental work; another $1,005,000 has been set aside in the 2022 fiscal year for construction.

Each FDOT fiscal year begins on July 1.

However, in response to a News Leader inquiry, city Senior Communications Manager Jan Thornburg reported on Jan. 6 that the Pine Place roundabout construction schedule “has not been determined at this time.”

The Scope of Services for the Kimley-Horn contract did point out, “It is understood that the project will be constructed through a Local Agency Program (LAP) agreement with FDOT and as such FDOT review will be required.”

During the commission meeting this week, one member of the public did voice objections to the process.

Martin Hyde, a Sarasota business owner, questioned why it “costs a quarter of a million dollars to design a traffic circle,” when the city has multiple roundabouts. The penny sales tax revenue “has many other potential uses,” a point about which the commissioners are aware,” Hyde added.

He further questioned the fact that Kimley-Horn “continually wins the approval” of city staff for a variety of initiatives. Hyde speculated that the reason for the firm’s success is the fact that Kimley-Horn representatives are “well-versed in the very complicated language that is used in our convoluted bidding processes.”

This is an image on the homepage of Kimley-Horn’s website. Image from Kimley-Horn

“This has been a bug bear of mine for a long time,” he continued. “Why do some people always get the contracts?

Why does nobody else bid on these?”

No commissioner commented on Hyde’s remarks.

The contract the board members approved indicates that, in accord with the state’s Consultants’ Competitive Negotiation Act, city staff “conducted discussions with no fewer than three firms regarding their qualifications, approach to the project and ability to furnish the required services.”

Additionally, the agenda material explains that the roundabout must be designed to fit within the existing right of way, and drainage plans should utilize “existing infrastructure as much as feasible in order to mitigate impacts … The project limits will begin approximately 400 feet east of Orange Avenue and run east along Ringling Boulevard to Indian Place for approximately 660 [linear feet].”

The Scope of Services notes that the firm would be expected to conduct as many as two public or neighborhood meetings on the initiative, which would include solicitation of public comments regarding the landscaping and streetscape design for the structure.

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