$6.9M Contract Awarded for First Phase of Smart2 Network

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Construction is expected to begin in June on a major upgrade to Fifth Avenue, following the award of a $6.9 million contract Thursday.

Parella-Pannunzio Inc. submitted the winning bid for the Fifth Avenue work, which represents the first phase of a three-phase downtown transportation project estimated to cost up to $30 million. 

Parella-Pannunzio was the lowest of three bidders for the project, which will involve road rehabilitation and safety upgrades from West Federal Street to the Madison Avenue Expressway. Marucci & Gaffney Excavating Co. submitted a bid of $7.09 million for the work, while S.E.T. Inc. bid $7.96 million for the job. 

The estimate for the work was just under $8.5 million, said Charles Shasho, Youngstown deputy director of public works, during a phone interview following the meeting. 

The contract is the first construction contract awarded for the three-phase Smart2 – Strategic & Sustainable, Medical & Manufacturing, Academic & Arts, Residential & Recreational, Technology & Training – Network. 

The project calls for a major upgrade to Fifth Avenue and several adjacent downtown streets, as well as the implementation of autonomous shuttle service running from St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital to downtown Youngstown. It is funded in part by a $10.85 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant awarded in 2018. The money is from the department’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or Build, grant program.

The Fifth Avenue phase, which Shasho said he expects to get underway in June, will involve reducing the number of lanes on Fifth to one in each direction from West Federal Street to the Madison Avenue Expressway. The work also will involve green infrastructure, adding medians, installing enhanced pedestrian crosswalks and upgrading traffic signals.

The work will be “very similar” to what was done on Wick Avenue a couple years ago, but taken to the next level, Shasho said. The end result will be “probably one of the most dramatic changes I’ve seen,” he said. 

“It’s pretty exciting. This is the type of project that you’re only going to get to do one,” he said. “To see it come to fruition like this is pretty rewarding.” 

Jim Kinnick, executive director of Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, echoed Shasho’s enthusiasm for the impending start of the project. Eastgate, a regional transportation planning agency, took the lead on the grant application. Partners on the application also included Youngstown State University, Western Reserve Transit Authority and Mercy Health-Youngstown.

“We’re excited to finally be able to put a shovel in the ground to get to this point,” Kinnick said. 

Initially budgeted at $22 million when the grant award was announced, estimates grew as the scope of the project changed, including increased costs from installing duct banks during the first and second phases to eventually install “smart” infrastructure. 

“It’s important if we’re going to have construction on these city streets in this urbanized area to be able to upgrade the internet in these areas,” Kinnick said. Though the additional infrastructure upped the potential cost of the project somewhat, he said he feels comfortable because the bid for the Fifth Avenue work came in so far below the estimate.

“As we move to Phase 2 late summer-early fall, we hope we get similar bids that come in under estimate,” Kinnick said. 

Shasho attributed the pricing of the Fifth Avenue bids to low petroleum prices. When the cost of fuel is down, that affects delivery costs, and petroleum is a component in asphalt. Bids for the next phase could also be more competitive as contractors who have been idled by the coronavirus pandemic seek work.  

“I’m cautiously optimistic we’re going to get good prices throughout this whole construction season,” he said. 

Pictured: A rendering of proposed upgrades to Fifth Avenue as part of the Smart2 Network project.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.