The extension of Marietta's River Trail from Fourth Street to the Duck Creek area was almost sidetracked recently as bids on the project came in far above the original engineer's estimate. But a proposal from the Ohio Department of Transportation has apparently saved the day.
"The bids came in nearly 37 percent higher than the engineer's estimate, and normally we would have to go back and re-bid the entire third phase of the project," said Eric Lambert, project manager with the city engineer's office.
He said the initial estimate for construction of the trail was $802,000, but the apparent low bid was $1.09 million from Shelly & Sands, Inc.
Bids on city projects that come in more than 10 percent above the engineer's estimate are usually rejected, but Lambert said ODOT has proposed using funds originally earmarked for a connector from the River Trail to the Marietta College campus to help bring the bid within that 10 percent range.
"ODOT apparently realized the college connector trail would not get done this year, so they took that budgeted amount and put it toward the main trail project," Lambert explained.
He noted the college connector would remain on the table, but would be completed at a later date.
River Trail construction bids
$802,000-Original engineer's estimate.
$1.096 million-Shelley & Sands Inc. of Columbus.
$1.109 million-RC Construction Company and Son Inc. of Cutler.
$1.500 million-Alan Stone Inc. of Cutler.
Source: Marietta Engineering Department
The change still allows ODOT to provide 80 percent of the project cost at $920,977, with a 20 percent match from the city of $230,244.
Lambert said the city would only be required to kick in an additional $61,824 from the streets fund to cover the local match. Other local match funding would include $33,684 from Marietta's annual Community Development Block Grant, and $134,736 from a state Recreational Trails Grant.
Without the ODOT-proposed solution, the city would have been on the hook for $242,000 to cover the necessary matching funds.
"We knew we could not afford that, and would have put the project off, but ODOT made the proposal and there weren't any alternatives," said Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, who chairs council's finance committee.
He said the city streets budget would be able to cover the $61,824.
"We asked auditor Sherri Hess and she said the streets fund looks better than we had expected, due to some projects that had come in under estimate this year," he said.
Lambert said the city had few other options.
"Our only other alternatives would have been to reject all bids and reformulate the third phase trail design," he said. "But the city-owned river frontage being used for the trail has already been maximized, and reformulation of the design would incur additional costs."
Lambert a sdded that there would be little value engineering opportunities (cutting costs through re-engineering the project), and that process would also incur more design costs.
"And if we tried to re-bid the entire project, the bids would likely come in even higher," Lambert said.