Key West cancels state contract for traffic signal maintenance


City officials are backing out of a contract with the state to maintain local traffic signals because of rising costs.

The contract cancellation won’t take effect for two years, as per state Department of Transportation (FDOT) rules. But rising costs for traffic signal maintenance, including computerized signaling, new state requirements on over-the-street mast arms and the planned installation of high-tech HAWK pedestrian crosswalk signals on North Roosevelt Boulevard are going to increase costs even more.

City Director of Engineering Jim Bouquet recommended to city commissioners that the contract be terminated and they voted unanimously to do so. Under the current agreement, FDOT pays the city annually to maintain the 25 city and 17 state-owned signals within Key West. In turn, the city subcontracts with KEYS Energy to handle maintenance of all the traffic signals.

But a combination of new state maintenance requirements and the additional of complex computerized signals requiring highly-trained technicians, KEYS Energy is demanding all of the approximately $60,000 FDOT pays to the city annually, according to Bouquet. Currently, KEYS Energy receives approximately half of the state allocation plus in-kind services from the city that include repairing sidewalk damage when KEYS Energy replaces electrical poles.

“They [KEYS Energy] have proposed some pretty significant increases for the overall program,” Bouquet said. “KEYS Energy really doesn’t want to be in this business, as far as I can tell.”

“They [FDOT] don’t give us enough money to do the maintenance and KEYS Energy costs have gone up,” said Key West City Manager Jim Scholl. “It was clear it was getting farther and farther apart.”

Giving FDOT a two-year notice of the contract cancellation is the first step. Next is figuring out how to maintain the traffic signals without KEYS Energy. Bouquet said the city will turn maintenance requirements of the 17 state-owned signals back to FDOT. As for the 25 traffic lights owned by the city, some, perhaps several, will be converted to four-way stop signs. Bouquet said the signals at major intersections along Duval and Simonton would likely remain. But the fate of others is up in the air.

“We probably have more signals than we need,” he said.

The city entered into the contract with FDOT in August 2015. But with higher-tech signals being installed and new state requirements for maintenance on metal signal poles and over-the-street mast arms that hold traffic lights, maintenance costs were going up without the state matching that increase. In the fiscal year ended June 30, 2017, FDOT paid Key West $56,201 for signal maintenance. The previous year, the city received $51,525 from FDOT.

Scholl said once the contract expires in June 2020, city employees may be able to handle any on-going signal maintenance on traffic lights owned by Key West.
“We believe our facilities maintenance department could do it. But we’ll probably put out a bid to an electrical engineer, too,” he said.

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