Replacing McGregor pedestrian bridge looks to be more costly than expected

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Replacing the pedestrian bridge that spanned B Street for many years looks to be more costly than the McGregor Council originally anticipated.

The project was re-bid this month, after contractors bid 125 to 150 percent over the engineer’s estimate at the original letting in July.

But this time around, totals weren’t any better, said Tim Cuttsforth, from H.R. Green Engineering, who attended the McGregor Council’s Sept. 19 meeting. The lowest bid was $250,000, well above the estimated cost of $182,891.

Cuttsforth said this is even after letting the project later in the construction season and slightly tweaking the bridge design.

“We shortened the bridge and changed up the construction to save a bit,” he remarked. “It’s as short as it can go and still span the road.”

City administrator Lynette Sander said the new pedestrian bridge would be similar to the original in looks. The bridge will have a metal frame with Trex decking, and the pylons and steps will be made of concrete.

The old bridge connected Point Ann Lane with Second Street for roughly 50 years. Already in need of repair prior to last year’s tornado, it was torn down in September 2017.

“At this point in time, we’ve bid it twice. I suspect this price is what it’s going to be,” Cuttsforth told the council. “I admit, it’s unusual compared to what I’ve seen in other parts of the state.”

Cuttsforth said he’s heard the cost of steel is currently running 20 percent higher, but he didn’t believe that fully accounted for the higher cost. Going with a different material likely wouldn’t make a difference.

“The first time [the project was bid], we gave a wood option,” he explained, “but that came in even higher. That defies logic.”

Cuttsforth said the design would have to be drastically changed to lower costs, but that would be difficult considering FEMA is funding 75 percent of the project.

“FEMA is all about putting things back in-kind,” he stated.

The best option, he noted, would be to ask FEMA if they would be willing to contribute more funding, at that same percentage. The city of McGregor is responsible for 15 percent of the project cost, while funding from the state accounts for 10 percent.

“We can try to bid again, but I think you might want to wait and hear what FEMA has to say before you go to that effort,” Cuttsforth said. “I don’t know what they’ll say, but hopefully they’ll agree to up their funding.”

The city has 60 days to award a contract for the project. The council, at Cuttsforth’s suggestion, agreed to table a decision until its next meeting, at which time it would have a response from FEMA.

If the project moves forward, Cuttsforth said it would be getting late into the construction season. Construction is anticipated to take 45 work days.

Councilman Charlie Carroll wondered if putting off the project further would jeopardize funding. 

“If you want a chance of putting it back, you’re going to want that money,” replied Sander.

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