Start date on Stadium bridges reconstruction delayed to fall, Ann Arbor officials say
The long-anticipated reconstruction of the East Stadium Boulevard bridges will take a little longer than expected, Ann Arbor officials said today.
Mayor John Hieftje said the demolition portion of the project, which was expected to begin in the spring, mostly likely won't start until the fall now.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Hieftje attributed the delay to having to jump through federal hoops, but referred official comment to Homayoon Pirooz, head of the city's project management unit.
Pirooz said the project is the recipient of three different kinds of state and federal transportation dollars, which complicates matters. Each pot of money has its own process that must be followed before the dollars are available for the construction phase, he said.
Based on progress made to date, Pirooz said the city expects to finalize an agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation for a $13.9 million TIGER II grant in May. The next step is securing the required right-of-ways, which he believes will happen in May and June.
After executing a formal agreement between the city and the state in July, the Michigan Department of Transportation will advertise the construction contract and will receive bids, Pirooz said. Then it will be several more months before the contractor who submits the lowest qualified bid can mobilize to the site and begin construction.
"We will probably have a more definite start of the construction date in the summer, and after all the formal agreements are in place," he said.
The city issued a request for proposals last month, seeking a firm to provide professional engineering services for the project. A project schedule attached to the RFP states that bids from contractors would be received through September, and the selected contractor would be given notice to proceed on the project in October.
The bridges would not reopen to traffic until November 2012, with final restoration and cleanup work expected to be finished by June 2013.
The project's delay is cause for criticism on A2Politico.com, a blog run by Ann Arbor resident Patricia Lesko, who unsuccessfully ran against Hieftje for mayor last year. A recent post on the blog blasts Hieftje and fellow council members for assuring residents during their campaigns last summer that the project would start in the spring.
"That was a whopper, alas," A2Politico writes. "Pure fiction. Huckster propaganda."
Hieftje argues when he said the project would begin in the spring, it was only city staff's best guess at the time, and the city hadn't yet landed all of the grant money it ended up receiving.
"There's really good reasons why it's taking longer," he said. "Now that we're using other funds, the city doesn't have as much control."
Ann Arbor officials were hanging onto hope last year that the crumbling bridge spans over South State Street and the nearby railroad tracks would receive state and federal grants.
Without funding assistance, it would cost the city $23 million of its own money to replace the bridges, which would have been a blow to local street projects. Hieftje and others were criticized by their political foes for putting off the repairs, but the gamble paid off in October when U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, announced $13.9 million in federal funding.
With additional funding from the state, the city now has $17.3 million in grants that will pay for 75 percent of the project.
Pirooz said it's possible that some of the steps in the process may take less time than the city estimates today, and others could take longer.
As of now, he said, the city has completed the engineering design and construction plans, and state and federal officials are doing their parts to allow construction to begin at the earliest opportunity. In contrast to a year ago, he added, there are no significant challenges left that could prevent the city from rebuilding the bridges at this point.
According to a statement on the city's website, replacing the East Stadium bridges is "Ann Arbor's highest priority transportation project."
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529.