Sunlight Bridge costs soaring | AspenTimes.com

Sunlight Bridge costs soaring

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The Glenwood Springs City Council will likely discuss options for funding improvements to the Sunlight Bridge at 27th Street.

The Army Corps of Engineers will complete repairs to the bridge to the tune of $927,800, of which the city is required to pay 35 percent, or $310,730. The federal funding is being provided through the 27th Street Bridge Emergency Streambank Protection Project.

Repair costs have doubled over the past year, according to a memo to City Council from city engineer Mike McDill.

“This project has been suspiciously like any federal project. The cost seems to continually escalate,” McDill wrote in the memo to council dated June 24.

In 2008, the total project cost came in at $409,000, McDill explained, with the city of Glenwood Springs chipping in $143,146 for the project. Glenwood has already paid $88,000 in 2008, as an advance payment on the project, according to the memo.

Mayor Bruce Christensen said that the city a “couple of years ago” did enter into an agreement to pay the $143,000.

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In January 2009, the Corps of Engineers sent city administration another estimate of $479,700, raising the local contribution by $27,000.

McDill explained that the city agreed to the new amount of $170,000 in January. However, in February, the Corps informed Glenwood officials that the cost had again increased to $650,000, raising the city’s contribution an additional $57,000, to $227,500.

Then, in May, city administration received a third letter stating that the costs were again increasing by $277,800. The total estimated price was now at $927,800 for the anticipated repairs, an increase of $518,800 over the original agreed-upon construction costs.

And with construction costs declining recently, the drastic increases were a point of concern for McDill; however, he said that the Corps of Engineers may have not fully understood the extent to which the bridge needed repaired.

“I think that it had more to do with maybe underestimating [the project] to start with,” McDill said.

“It kind of caught us a little off guard in the budgeting process,” he said.

The problem compounds because the city had approved the remaining $55,000, which was left over from the original $143,000 contribution, in the 2009 budget. Now that the price has increased 56 percent and the work being at a critical point, city council may have its hands tied.

In the memo to city council, McDill wrote that there are two possible alternatives for the project. One was to authorize the delivery of the new total contribution or $222,730, which the city would pay for through the Street Tax Fund. The other alternative is to notify the Corp of Engineers that the city is no longer interested in completing this project at the current costs, McDill wrote.

But the latter option may not actually be an alternative.

“I think it’s not that much of an option,” McDill said. “It’s pretty important to protect and maintain this bridge. We would not want to be in a position of replacing this bridge.”

McDill indicated that, as far as he knew, the project has been on the table for about nine years. However, the project has recently become a “priority,” McDill said. That is why the Corp of Engineers is looking to complete the work this year.

Currently, the item is included as part of the consent agenda for Thursday’s city council meeting. However, Christensen said that the item would most likely be removed so that council could discuss it.

“Now that [the costs are] this high I think we need to look at it,” Christensen said. “I’d like an explanation as to why the cost has gone up so much and to review what the city is going to get out of it.”

Christensen said that he was unsure if the item would be discussed Thursday because city manager Jeff Hecksel will be absent from the meeting.

Calls to the Corp of Engineers seeking comment were not returned Wednesday.

jgardner@postindependent.com

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