A train passes McCord Road near Airport Highway. Bidding on the underpass project originally exceeded estimates by 21.3 percent.
Although all bids came in at least $4 million higher than an official estimate, state and Lucas County officials have decided to proceed with the McCord Road underpass project.
Lucas County will be on the hook for most of the difference, and “fully responsible for any change orders” that occur during construction, County Engineer Keith Earley said Thursday. But county officials also will work to reduce the project’s cost wherever possible and seek additional state funds if available, he said.
Canton, Ohio-based Beaver Excavating Co.’s $23.4 million proposal for the work to replace McCord’s at-grade crossing of a busy Norfolk Southern railroad line with an underpass exceeded the state’s $19.3 million estimate for the work by 21.3 percent.
Even after Ohio Department of Transportation officials studied that and four other bids for the project and “corrected” the official state estimate to almost $21.5 million, the lowest bid is still 8.9 percent higher.
Since four of five reputable contractors that bid on the project submitted offers between $23.4 million and $25.4 million, there is evidence that there is little to be gained by rejecting the bids and re-advertising, Mike Gramza, ODOT’s planning administrator in Bowling Green, said Thursday.
Instead, Mr. Earley said, “Further discussions will be had with the successful bidder, including the possibility of changes to the contract through the value engineering process that could reduce the construction costs.”
Much of the overrun, he and Mr. Gramza said, is attributable to a sewer-main repair that will be done as part of the underpass project.
A 66-inch county main that runs near McCord, already showing signs of decay, was deemed at risk of failure if disturbed by the underpass construction. Placement of a concrete liner to stabilize the pipe will account for about $3 million of the project’s cost, much of which will be paid from the county sanitary engineer’s budget.
Mr. Gramza said a pump station to handle drainage from the underpass roadway also cost substantially more than budgeted, although he could not provide a precise figure Thursday for that or the sewer overrun.
Some of the project’s federal funding, from four different sources, had provisions for increases up to 20 percent, but other funds were already at maximum, Mr. Earley said.
“Considering how much money had already been spent, [the coun-ty] agreed to pay an additional $1.5 million now plus $1 million more by Jan. 31, 2016,” he said.
“We had budgeted for the worst case,” Mr. Earley continued, adding that the overrun “will affect what we can do in future years” but offering no specific examples.
Construction is expected to start late next month, but for the rest of 2014 should not affect traffic much on either McCord or the railroad.
Right-of-way for both a temporary railroad crossing and a railroad “shoo-fly” bypass has been obtained and cleared, and construction of those detour routes will be the project’s initial focus.
The higher-than-expected low bid escalates the cost of a project for which state and local officials struggled for years to assemble a funding package.
It was listed as part of a $200 million program announced in 2000 by then-Gov. Bob Taft to replace problem railroad crossings with bridges or underpasses, but that program is covering only about $10.6 million of its cost.
Federal grants will pay part of the rest, and at one point $13.3 million was promised through ODOT’s “major-new” projects budget before the Kasich administration declared that budget fiscally bankrupt two years ago.
The “major-new” fund now is committed to providing $1.653 million, although Mr. Earley said he plans to apply for more money to help Lucas County offset the higher contract cost.
Besides several fatal car-train collisions, the McCord crossing in late 2009 was where two students walking to nearby Springfield High School were struck by a train when they tried to run across the tracks in front of it. One student was killed, while the other lost a leg.
Contact David Patch at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6094.
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