Contract for Sunlight Bridge spotlights city’s bidding process
Thursday night, the Glenwood Springs’ City Council awarded RL Wadsworth, the lowest bidder for the 27th Street Bridge construction undertaking, a $9,835,123 contract. And, although the motion passed unanimously, some council members exhibited frustration about the city’s bidding process.
“It is structurally deficient and functionally obsolete,” Glenwood Springs Assistant City Engineer Jessica Bowser said of the 27th Street Bridge at the meeting, in response to a question posed by Glenwood Springs Mayor Michael Gamba.
“As an engineer, I am always critical of us making really big decisions based on engineers’ estimates,” Gamba said.
While the engineers’ estimate was 18 percent lower than Wadsworth’s $9.8 million bid, the complexity of the project, which includes a construction method where the bridge would be built off the eventual alignment and then slid into place, made it, “extremely difficult to accurately account for items such as risk, limited staging and access,” according to a staff report.
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“I am very concerned again about the procedure that we go through,” At Large City Councilman Jim Ingraham said. “I think it is not intentionally but nevertheless misleading to the public to tell them this is an $8 million project and then it’s a $10 million project, and we are so far down the road at this point, emotionally and otherwise invested, we are going to just quickly spend another two million bucks.
“There’s a lot of things we could do with two million bucks,” Ingraham said. “I am going to vote for this project, but I am not going to vote for any more big projects. I am either going to abstain or vote no, until we have a public discussion of our process that we go through.”
He continued, “I believe that had we not told the whole world exactly what we were going to pay, we would have had a range of bids that probably varied around the engineering estimates, and I think as a result of our process we just spent an extra two million bucks that we could spend on a lot of other things,” Ingraham added.
For the 27th Street Bridge project, the city had already agreed on a $1.25 million management contract with HDR Inc. out of Denver, and not moving forward with a construction contract would have risked lucrative grant funding.
The bridge has earned a 10.5 out of 100 rating from state inspectors, making it the worst-rated bridge in the state of Colorado.
“Because the bridge is rated so poorly, we need to get this project done,” At Large Councilwoman Shelley Kaup said at the meeting. “As far as our process, I think our engineers do the best in-house to estimate based on material cost, quantities and things like that, but this bridge is in a very steeply banked river.
“Sometimes the projects come in higher than our estimates and sometimes they come in a little lower than our estimates,” Kaup added. “This one, I think that 18 percent, while I wish it was closer to what we had estimated I think it is within a reasonable amount considering the details of this project.”
Ingraham countered, “Until we have a serious debate about the way to do this, I’m out.”
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In a 4-3 vote Monday night, city council allowed the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to continue operating in Glenwood Springs amid the COVID-19 crisis.