PSTA awards contract for SunRunner BRT, secures $21.8-million CIG grant

July 30, 2020
David Nelson Construction will build the 10.3-mile project that will connect downtown St. Petersburg to the Gulf Beaches area when it opens in 2022.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded a $21.8-million grant to the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) for the first bus rapid transit (BRT) project in the region. A day later, the authority’s board approved a contract for the construction of the project.  

PSTA officials announced the Capital Investments Grant (CIG) Program funding at the end of May and anticipated construction on the SunRunner BRT would begin in July.

“This $21.8 million federal investment in a new bus rapid transit system in the St. Petersburg area will provide residents with better access to employment, healthcare, educational opportunities and other important services,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The SunRunner BRT project will connect downtown St. Petersburg, Fla., to the Gulf Beaches area along a 10.3-mile, 16-station route. PSTA says the project will allow residents and visitors to enjoy a quick, low cost and frequent way to travel to destinations along the Central Avenue corridor, South Pasadena and St. Pete Beach. PSTA estimates that there are 50,000 jobs within half a mile of the project corridor, which means the route will be an affordable commute option when it opens in 2022.

Buses are expected to be delivered for the project in 2021. The vehicles will allow for multi-door boarding, level boarding and offer Wi-Fi to riders. The vehicles will operate in semi-dedicated lanes and will come equipped with traffic signal priority technology to ensure the route’s 15-minute headways are consistent and reliable.

“FTA is proud to join Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority in Florida to improve public transportation in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams. “The Central Avenue BRT project will provide fast and efficient service, improving mobility and travel times in this busy corridor.”

Williams added, “This federal investment is an economic boost for Pinellas County as the project will create jobs and help communities recover from the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

This $21.8-million CIG grant combined with Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) $10.5-million New Starts Program and Design Grant, plus contributions made by the city of St. Petersburg and PSTA, will fund the entire $43.93-million project.

Contract approved

PSTA Board of Directors unanimously voted July 29 to approve a contract with David Nelson Construction to build the SunRunner BRT. The contract is for up to $22.9 million with a 10 percent contingency.

Construction will include resurfacing and construction of business access and transit lanes along 1st Avenue North and South, portions of Pasadena Avenue in St. Petersburg and South Pasadena, uniquely branded stations and traffic signal improvements along the corridor.

“We are very excited to be working with David Nelson Construction for this world-class project,” said Joe Barkley, chairman of the PSTA Board. “Especially with their reputation of helping to build Tampa Bay.”

Over the past 15 years, David Nelson Construction has worked with FDOT, as well as many cities and counties within the Tampa Bay Region. In addition to countless roadway projects of all sizes, including widening of 2.5 miles of I-275 in Tampa, reconstruction of two miles of SR 54 in Pasco County and 4 miles of Keystone Road in Pinellas County, David Nelson Construction has completed site work for numerous projects for commercial retail, schools and hospitals, city streetscapes and parks, as well as major runway paving and repair projects for Tampa International Airport and MacDill Air Force Base.

“Keeping dollars local is essential and David Nelson Construction has proven time and time again in our region that they are up to the task to complete this innovative system” said Brad Miller, CEO of PSTA. “We cannot wait to begin breaking ground with them to bring this service to our community.”

“Nelson Construction is extremely excited to be a part of this groundbreaking project that will connect downtown St. Pete to the beaches,” said Jeff Nelson of David Nelson Construction Co. “This elevated level of service by PSTA is going to greatly improve the connectivity in our community and we can’t wait to get started.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.