County board approves Bridge Avenue contract

Published 5:51 am Thursday, May 7, 2020

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The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday awarded Ulland Brothers Inc. the contract for the reconstruction of Bridge Avenue. 

Ulland’s $12.24 million bid, the only bid received for the project, came in 24.8% higher than the engineer’s estimate, but county engineer Sue Miller said she hoped the county could negotiate some potential cost savings. 

The vote passed 3-1 with 2nd District Commissioner Dan Belshan voting against and 3rd District Commissioner Jim Nelson abstaining. 

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Belshan said he was not against the project but did not like that the county couldn’t negotiate the price before the contract was approved. 

The project has been 21 years in the making, Miller said, and is a joint project between the county and the city of Albert Lea. It includes the reconstruction of not only the road, from Marshall Street to Hammer Road, but also the reconstruction of the underground utilities, as well. The road is owned and maintained by the county, but underground utilities are owned and maintained by the city. 

Miller said the main reasons the project costs came in so high over the estimate were the complexity of the underground utility work and contractors not being large enough to commit to the project and the complexity regarding the staging of equipment and phasing that had been in place for the project to accommodate the Freeborn County Fair. 

With the fair now being canceled for the year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an opportunity to re-evaluate the construction phasing for possible savings. 

Miller said the majority of the increased costs will be tied to the underground utility cost, which will be a city cost. She estimated the extra county cost to be about $600,000, which can come from the local option sales tax dedicated for roads. 

Federal funds will cover $5.785 million. 

Fifth District Commissioner Mike Lee said though he is concerned about the cost, he recognizes the project needs to get completed. 

Background information provided to the commissioners ahead of the meeting stated plans include removing the signal system at Hawthorne Street based on safety, as traffic counts on Hawthorne and the pedestrian counts do not warrant a signal system. The traffic lights will be replaced with stop signs on Hawthorne and flashing pedestrian lights on Bridge Avenue. 

“Installing signal systems without meeting engineering warrants creates a far less safe traffic environment with documented higher severity crash consequences,” the background information stated. “The system/configuration as designed as part of the plan bid will function well for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic observing responsible behavior.”

The city approved the award of the contract at its April 23 meeting. 

The project was bid with a completion date of July 2021 with the final lift of bituminous paving to be constructed then.