West St. Paul asks for input on Robert St. project

The West St. Paul City Council called for a special meeting to discuss the reconstruction of Robert Street. On Dec. 1, the public is invited to comment on the $24.2 million project.

The West St. Paul City Council is hosting a special meeting Dec. 1 to discuss the reconstruction of Robert Street, after the council in October rejected bids for phase one of the project because they were significantly higher than the city's estimates.

The meeting will include an opportunity for the public to comment on the project, and the council may decide how to move forward. It's scheduled for 5:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at West St. Paul City Hall, 1616 Humboldt Ave. 

As usual, the public is also welcome to submit comments by contacting council members anytime.

Although the thoroughfare is owned by the state, the city took a lead role in its reconstruction. The road's condition has been deteriorating, and West St. Paul staff said the majority of pothole complaints they received last winter and spring involved South Robert.

The project consultant, SRF Consulting Group, recently updated its estimate for the total cost of phase one from $20.8 million to $24.2 million, accounting for market price conditions.

The state had planned to contribute at least $10 million to the revamp, and federal dollars boosting the project total $8 million, according to city staff.

$24 million still less than previous bids

Only two paving companies bid on the road construction this fall. The bids were upwards of 37 percent more than original estimates, according to city documents.

Hardrives, Inc. of Rogers bid $28.5 million, and Bituminous Roadways, Inc. of Mendota Heights bid about $31 million, nearly 50 percent higher than anticipated.

Due to the "extreme cost," city staff and the project consultant recommended the council scrap the bids, take time to find out what went wrong, and then possibly seek fresh bids.

At the council meeting Nov. 24, staff presented options that would cut the cost of the project by $2.25 million. 

One option includes reducing how much pavement is involved. Currently, about 40 percent of the project calls for a total reconstruction of the road and its foundation, working to 10 inches deep, according to SRF's memo. The other 60 percent is a mill and overlay, where the top few inches of the road are ground up and then replaced. 

By going to a 4-inch mill and overlay, the council could shave about $455,000 off the project. That could also allow for a scaleback of water and sewer work to save $365,000.

Minor sanitary sewer work could also be reduced to save $465,000.

The storm sewers are in poor condition and the pipes are of insufficient capacity, according to city documents, but the council could hold off on repairing them to save about $1.2 million.

Even with the changes, the project would still include new pavement, a new concrete median, new LED lighting, new traffic signals and a new sidewalk.

"While we'd reduce the price, the traveling public would still see the project that they've been expecting," said Matt Saam, city engineer and public works director.

If the council proceeds with the project, city staff is hoping to bid the project in early 2015 to take advantage of a more favorable bidding climate. 

Kicking the can?

The majority of the council wanted to offer the public another chance to comment on the project before they make a decision. 

Some of the council members were wary of the potential cuts to the project.

"I don't want to kick this can down the road any farther," council member Dick Vitelli said at the meeting. "We need to rebid this. Personally, I'd like to rebid it as it is right now."

Mayor John Zanmiller suggested the council could assess the properties in the project area to help fill the funding gap.

"It's fundamentally unfair to ... give Robert Street property owners a pass," he said.

The meeting Dec. 1 will deal with phase one of the project. Phase two includes streetscape elements and the trees planned to line the 2.4-mile stretch of the busy roadway that runs through the city's main commercial business district.

Kaitlyn Roby can be reached at 651-748-7815 and kroby@lillinews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/KRobyNews.

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