Town council postponed a decision to move ahead with the North Bridge replacement project after hearing tenders raised the cost by $1.7 million.
The decision was made during the regular meeting Tuesday, April 28 after finding out the new cost at $5.3 million, up from the original estimate of $3.6 million.
The question for Coun. Tim Falkiner was how the original estimate could be out by so much. Dave McPhee, director of operation and property services said the biggest cost increase came from the road construction at $1.2 million over.
Pre-tender estimates and actual tenders on road construction showed a large difference, stated Tagish Engineering in a letter. Tagish is the engineering firm hired to provide plans and cost estimates for the project.
The company recommended the full project be conducted in two years to deal with road construction. If the decision is delayed it could delay allowable bridge construction timelines.
Dirt costs high
Major discrepancies include mobilization, site development and road restoration but the biggest increase was in surface improvements to the road embankment. McPhee said this showed an increase of $600,000 due to having to haul a specific type of dirt ideal for use during construction.
This dirt is over three kilometres away and that cost comes from having to haul it, he said.
“Is this bridge capable of handling another year of life,” asked Coun. Marc Yaworski, referring to one recommendation by administration to wait a year.
McPhee did not give a clear answer except to say there is some liability risk.
“It’s a financial risk to the town. You’re going to have to pay to insurance,” added CAO Rachel Kunz.
While road tenders have been submitted, the town is waiting for approval for bridge construction from Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.
A decision is expected in the next week but the town has to take action quickly to meet strict timing regulations.
Bridge tenders show decrease from 2014
Bridge engineer firm LEX3, the company approved by the town to design the new North Bridge, states that bridge tenders are realizing a decrease of 10 to 20 per cent from 2014, states Tagish in the letter.
Because of this, LEX3 recommends moving forward with bridge tenders as soon as environmental approval is given. If tender awards are given in June or July there may be no issue with a Fisheries No Disturbance window.
Bonnett wanted to know if there is a way to get dirt from a closer location. “What is ‘suitable material’ for a road?” he asked.
Kunz advised that if the town waits too long, it may have to pay more but the mayor disagreed. He suggested if dirt can be found closer, it would save time and money.
There was also concern from some councillors that if the town waits too long, it will delay an important capital project.
“This bridge has been put off for so many years, but we can’t ignore it,” stated Coun. Sandra Lyon.
However, if council were to approve the road construction costs before being able to tender costs for the bridge replacement, it could become a challenge to get a better price. Contractors would know what the road costs would be and overall project cost as well.
Landowner suggests he has the right dirt
Landowner Vance Walker owns the property just northwest of the bridge. He took some time to speak with council during the public forum and suggests he has dirt suitable for the project.
“I’d be open for you to check into that,” said Walker.
He met with council in April 2012 about his plans for that land and goals he has for it. No decisions were made at that meeting.
Council asked for more information on costing and wants to wait for approval of bridge construction.
There were six tenders for road improvements and three recommended by Tagish: Border Paving, $2.7 million; DB Bobcat Services, $2.75 million and TBL Construction, $2.9 million.
Once approved, the majority of the project will be debentured. The town will pay $443,00 coming from grants and savings.