Longtime Atlantic City employees and residents often roll their eyes when discussion of repaving Pacific Avenue arises.
“We’ve been hearing about this for 10 years. That’s how long this has been going on,” said Atlantic City Jitney Association President Tom Woodruff. “Deadlines come and deadlines go, and nothing happens.”
More recently, however, focus on who would complete the work switched from the city to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, so a new set of promises and deadlines arose. The project was among many concerns raised by residents in meetings with the CRDA even prior to the creation of the Tourism District in 2011.
CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri said the agency would take on the project and the millions in expenses to pay for it.
That was a year ago.
Today, a faulty bid process, followed by another bid process returning a result that couldn’t be accepted, has left Pacific Avenue still bumpy and many still frustrated. The frustration intensified when Palmieri said last month that the authority would soon go out to bid for a third time — but that work could not begin until after the Miss America Competition in September to avoid causing delays during the summer.
Now, the authority has bumped up its estimates. A new request for proposals has been issued and, if satisfactory bids are received, a contract could be awarded in April with work beginning by mid-May.
“The terms of the contract will require all work to be completed by the end of the year, and work will be staged to create as little inconvenience as possible to Atlantic City’s visitors, employees and residents,” Palmieri said in a recent letter to The Press of Atlantic City.
At least one casino executive, however, has called the situation “a little sad” and “very concerning.”
Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen appeared on “Pinky’s Corner” on 1400-AM WOND earlier this month confirming that the Seminole Tribe-owned company is “curious” about Revel Casino-Hotel, which has been for sale since last year. The company has filed documents with state regulators inquiring about casino licensure.
“It’s mind-boggling that something as simple as this can’t get done,” Allen, a former Atlantic City casino executive, told Pinky Kravitz, the show’s host. “I said to myself, ‘Why are we even considering (Atlantic City), if we can’t get the major thoroughfare finished for the summer season?’ … It’s a little scary.”
The CRDA gave the following description of the problems it has encountered with the bid process.
The first solicitation, returned in October, yielded three bids — all of which were defective. Officials said none of the bidders gave a schedule for the work to be completed. In a second solicitation returned recently, only one bid was received, and that bid was substantially higher than an engineer’s estimate. Palmieri said that prohibited the authority from awarding the contract.
“After a good deal of thought and discussion, we have been able to adjust the (solicitation) to attract bids that are within the budget limits,” Palmieri wrote. “By purchasing some of the materials ourselves through other existing budget mechanisms, the cost to the contractor is lower.”
Kim Butler, a spokeswoman for the CRDA, declined to provide the names of the companies that have responded, the amounts they bid and the engineer’s estimate. She said the information is not public while the process is ongoing.
While the wait continues, so do the frustrations.
Woodruff said the issue is more than a nuisance for the 190 jitneys. The association made a $10 million investment in 2011 for a new fleet, since officials were promising the road would be repaved soon. The wear-and-tear on tires and front suspensions has been significant, he said.
Currently, the only smoothed section is in front of Caesars and Bally’s, where repaving was completed within the past five years.
“There’s huge frustration. Again, promises, promises, promises,” Woodruff said. “My opinion is just get it done.”
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