‘Wait and see’: Fed funding may delay Ninth Avenue

A delay in the passage of a federal highway bill may put a kink in the city’s plans to finish the Ninth Avenue Northwest reconstruction project in a timely manner.

The Valley City City Commission met in a special meeting Friday to nail down its options for the shortened construction window caused by the funding delay, which has already dashed any hopes of finishing the entire project in 2012.

“Because of the uncertainty for the federal funding for the highway bill, everybody, including the state is in a quandary about this,” said Mayor Bob Werkhoven. “What we’re trying to figure out is whether we should go ahead with it or not.”

“Since the Sixth Avenue had a small amount of federal dollars, that one is going to proceed in a May bid opening,” engineer Chad Petersen of Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson said. “(Ninth Avenue) has been moved to a June 15 bid opening. Our best bet is to proceed with bidding that project in June as it is today and not make any changes.”

Petersen said it takes about four weeks from the time of the bid opening to finish awarding contracts and actually begin work, which would put the Ninth Avenue project at the middle or end of July for a start date.

The commission approved the recommendation of splitting the project into two phases and constructing them separately, if need be. Phase one of the project would be from Main Street to Fourth Street Northwest, the southern boundary of Pioneer Park, which would include water, sewer and storm sewer replacement. Petersen said a conservative estimate for Phase one would be about 12 weeks to completion.

Phase two, or the north end of the project, would be from Pioneer Park north to Twelfth Avenue Northwest. Phase one would ideally take place this year, with phase two scheduled for early 2013.

In discussions with the Urban Roads Project manager, Petersen said the outlook still looks good for starting Phase one this year.

“With the 90-day extension, they anticipate getting about $7 million to the state for the urban side of the federal funding, so if they get that money as planned, and right now they anticipate that, then our project would be sitting good for a June bid opening,” he said. “Four to five weeks before, they send the paperwork to the federal highway program saying they have the funds available.”

Despite a large number of road projects statewide, Petersen said availability of contractors should not be a problem, as he has talked with several who have said they would have the capacity to take the project, even with a late start.

“It’s just not practical to build all that this year. I think we have some flexibility to react. Right now we know where the project is programmed and we anticipate having the money available. If we move something outside of that 90-day window at the end of June, the uncertainties get bigger. It’s going to be a big negative for the country if there’s not a highway bill in place, with people out of work, so you anticipate the extension of that.”

Petersen said if the state doesn’t have federal funding in place by the end of May, the June bid opening will be off the table, potentially pushing the entire project to 2013.