Sunlight Bridge reopens ahead of schedule, but full schedule still behind
Contractor not assessed daily $43,000 lane rental fee despite closing both for nearly 48 hours
This past weekend’s 27th Street Pedestrian Bridge installation was, “the opposite of a perfect storm,” project Public Information Manager Bryana Starbuck said.
The city and contractor R. L. Wadsworth Construction had planned on shutting down the 27th Street Bridge beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday and keeping its two lanes closed to traffic through 6 a.m. Monday.
However, instead of lasting 83 hours, crews were able to install the new pedestrian bridge and girders for the new traffic bridge in less than 48 hours.
“Laying those girders just went so smoothly,” Starbuck said. “We don’t want to go over our time limit. We want to make sure that we respect people’s time and minimize that impact.”
According to city data, over 14,000 vehicles cross the 27th Street Bridge (a.k.a. Sunlight Bridge) daily, as it serves as the city’s main link over the Roaring Fork River to neighborhoods along South Midland Avenue and the Four Mile Road corridor.
Although the pedestrian bridge installation took less time than expected, the approximately $12.3 million project to replace the bridge has fallen a bit behind schedule. The existing bridge has been deemed structurally deficient and functionally obsolete by state inspectors.
The new pedestrian bridge was originally scheduled to open to the public by June 28. And, although installed, the new span remains closed to pedestrian access while work is being completed.
“While the opening of the [pedestrian] bridge is a milestone in the contract, the only penalty assessed for not meeting the milestone is a request to the contractor for a recovery schedule,” City Engineer Terri Partch explained.
Additionally, with the exception of landscape maintenance, the entire project had an envisioned completion date of Nov. 30.
However, that date has now been pushed back to December.
The year’s heavy winter and utility conflicts were the primary reasons for the project’s timeline being extended, officials say.
“At this time the contract completion time has been adjusted to Dec. 5, based on additional, unanticipated work,” Partch said.
According to a the bridge construction contract dated Aug. 28, 2018, “The contractor shall be assessed a lane rental fee of $43,000 each day or portion thereof (prorated per hour) beyond the 84-hour bridge move closure period” that the bridge is closed.
While the bridge move period — that has yet to occur — allows the contractor to close the bridge completely to traffic, only one lane was supposed to close for this past weekend’s pedestrian bridge and girder installations.
Partch confirmed that the city, not the contractor, made the call to close both lanes this weekend for safety reasons. As a result, the contractor will not see the nearly $86,000 deducted from its compensation.
“With every contract we anticipate change orders to the work,” Partch said.
In this particular instance, the extenuating circumstance beyond the contractor’s control, according to the city, was safety.
“We consulted with the chief of police and we all agreed that we thought that it was dangerous to have just a single lane closure with 50-ton cranes,” Partch said.
Partch said that if the contractor goes past the newly agreed upon completion date, a liquidated damages provision allows the city to charge a fee of $5,500 per day.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.