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Talks are scheduled today between Lucas County engineer Keith Earley and state transportation officials in hopes of finding a way to reduce the county's cost in constructing the McCord Road underpass and keeping the long-awaited project on track.
The meeting between Mr. Earley and the Ohio Department of Transportation's assistant director James Barna and Todd Audet, deputy director of the department‘s District 2 office, was set up after they failed to show up for Thursday's county commissioner's meeting to discuss the higher-than-expected construction costs for the railroad underpass project in Holland.
The county’s share had been estimated at nearly $500,000, but escalated to $3 million because the $23.4 million low bid awarded to Beaver Escavating Co. of Canton was 21.3 percent more than what ODOT had estimated.
Also, the county will be held responsible for most of the difference in actual construction costs and will be responsible to foot the bill for any change orders, extra costs that Mr. Earley said could reach nearly $1 million.
The commissioners had set up a meeting on Thursday with the understanding that the state officials would appear to provide more information about the project costs and find ways to reduce the use of county dollars.
However, the state transportation officials canceled late in the day, saying they would be unavailable for the meeting.
Commissioner Pete Gerken, who appeared agitated, said he was frustrated that Mr. Barna and Mr. Audet backed out of the meeting, which had been quickly arranged because the state wanted a commitment from Lucas County on the local share before Monday.
“I will begin by saying this: I support this project. This project needs to be done,” Mr. Gerken said.
“But I am outraged. I am mad.”
He continued, “I am frustrated. A special meeting was called for them to show up; they said yes, and less than 24 hours [later] they say they can’t make it.”
Among the concerns of county commissioners is that spending more on the railroad underpass will mean less money will be available for future road and bridge projects and resurfacing streets in the city of Toledo.
Costs already incurred to acquire private land for right of way for a temporary railroad crossing, relocation costs for affected businesses, and the expense of a railroad “shoo-fly” bypass as well as money spent on design, planning, and engineering work will push the total cost to $36 million, ODOT officials said.
Construction is expected to start this summer and will continue through November, 2016, when the underpass project is expected to be completed.
Mr. Audet said he could not meet with the commissioners because he was attending a meeting in Columbus.
Mr. Audet said he was hopeful that the meeting with Mr. Earley will be productive in exploring possible funding sources for reaching a solution to reducing Lucas County’s share of the construction costs.
“We have been very successful in delivering on projects in northwest Ohio. I am hopeful that we can maintain that record and work on this to obtain an equitable solution.”
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6199.