For at least three weeks, Maryville city staff have been working through different ways to address the $3.5 million gap in the South Main Improvement Project.
In a lengthy presentation recounting the intricacies of the project April 12, City Manager Greg McDanel presented three overarching options to the City Council: acquiring additional funding, rebidding the project as designed and altering the project scope.
“Contractors noted material prices, demand and pandemic challenges, which, at this point, we expected going into it. We were hoping that we wouldn’t be close to $4 million off,” McDanel said.
Acquiring additional funding was the most time-sensitive option since bids that came in mid-March are only valid for 30 days. Similarly, rebidding the project as designed meant working close to BUILD grant deadlines and battling rising material costs.
These options came after almost daily meetings with the Missouri Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration, which provides guidelines the city has to meet with this kind of large-scale project.
Given these choices, altering the project scope seemed to be the best option, McDanel said, but it wouldn’t be as simple as cutting certain aesthetic features.
“We took a significant look at those project features, some of the street lights, some of the sidewalk widths, but when you’re $4 million off, that’s a lot to back out on the project without really changing the functionality of everything.”
McDanel said engineers also briefly looked at not going forward with underground utilities, but removing that component of the project impacts design and functionality of the other features and does more harm than good.
Instead, going forward, McDanel discussed a two-phase approach recommended by project engineers. Phase I will complete construction from South Avenue to the Highway V intersection. Engineers noticed a clean break at this point for storm drainage utilities, traffic signals, pedestrian features and lighting. This phase is 55% of the original project length, but it encompanses 80% of the materials and functionality plans for the project.
Phase II would then complete construction from the Highway V intersection to the Highway 71 Bypass. This phase would require additional outside funding, McDanel said, which the city is seeking through national infrastructure and pandemic response initiatives. The city has officially applied for what funds are available through Sam Graves initiative “Community Funding Project Applications.”
McDanel said the city officially rejected the bids that came in 23% over the engineers original estimate April 6, and MoDOT accepted that rejection.
With the new Phase I comes the requirement of an additional engineered guide of the city’s plans, specifications and estimates. SK Design Group Inc. should have the guide completed by April 19, McDanel said. MoDOT and FWHA reached an agreement to expedite this approval so the city can schedule a rebid.
A rebid is now tentatively scheduled for May 3, 2021, which will be a 30-day process, then City Council would potentially consider a construction contract in June. If the contract is approved, the 15-18 month construction project would begin in July.
New council members Dannen Merrill and John McBride, who focused their campaigns on infrastructure and government spending, were naturally focused on in-house spending.
“So with, kind of, the restructuring and downsizing of the project … you would be able to maintain the integrity of the whole project and stay within the original budget,” McBride said.
“Correct,” McDanel said.
“And then on the second phase … you’re looking at potentially securing a grant to take care of that,” McBride said. “Would there have to be any matching funds?”
McDanel said a city match would depend on the funding source but that it likely wouldn’t exceed 20%.
The South Main Improvement Project includes 1.5 miles of street construction, realigning three traffic lanes on South Main Street from South Avenue to the Highway 71 Bypass.
In a 500-page booklet, 250 pages of executive analysis and 250 pages of supporting documents, engineers detailed findings of a 2014 South Main Street traffic study. This study sparked inspiration for the South Main Improvement Project as it identified the largest traffic flow issues coming at entry and exit points of businesses, poor pedestrian amenities and lack of traffic signals in the corridor.
The project has remained a focus of the City Council after it was included in a comprehensive plan for community improvements in 2012. Since 2015, each City Council has adopted measures working toward construction of the project.