The city's construction schedule for rebuilding the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge has been cast into doubt by bidding that has come in nearly $1.5 million higher than officials expected.
Bill Franklin, the city commissioner of streets, bridges, and harbor, said officials are still deciding what to do in response to the bid-opening last week but have three basic alternatives: cut something from the project, find more money, or seek new bids.
“We're still analyzing the bids to find out what we can do,” Mr. Franklin said.
HNTB, the consulting engineer with which city officials have been working on the King bridge project, estimated that the project's first phase, rebuilding all spans except for the draw spans, would cost $8.67 million.
But the lowest of four bids for the contract was $10.15 million, submitted by Kokosing Construction Co. of Fredericktown, Ohio. Other bids ranged from $11.19 million to $12.83 million.
The streets division had hoped to have a contract signed by the end of this month and have work begin by mid-August. If new bids have to be sought, Mr. Franklin said, that schedule certainly won't be met.
Joe Rutherford, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said re-bidding the project could be counterproductive, since there likely would be fewer bidders and the result could be an even higher price.
The first phase budget includes $8.1 million in federal funds, $6.2 million of it from special appropriations and the rest regional money distributed by the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments. The remaining $600,000 is from the Ohio Public Works Commission.
Funds from the city's capital improvement program are being used to pay for engineering, design, and construction supervision and testing, said Dale Rupert, a senior bridge engineer with the streets division.
Increasing the project's budget likely would mean tapping funds intended for the second phase, rehabilitating the 92-year-old bridge's draw spans, which is tentatively scheduled to start in 2004. City officials are still $9.5 million short of fully funding that part of the project.
“Pulling money from Phase 1 would leave a bigger hole in Phase 2,” Mr. Franklin said.
But the most obvious cost-cutting option that Mr. Franklin said the city has available would, in a sense, have the same effect. City officials could save $1 million from Phase 1 by postponing installation of a rust-prevention system that uses a low-level electric current in the bridge's reinforcing steel, he said, but would want to add that element during Phase 2.