Road work ahead

The North Dakota Transportation Department’s discovery of an extra $1.4 million is allowing reconstruction of Minot’s Sixth Street underpass to go ahead as scheduled this summer.

Bids that came in far above expectations nearly delayed a project that already has been put on hold four times. The Minot City Council was set to reject the bids Monday and rebid again for work next year when the city learned of the extra funding. The money consists of leftover federal funds from other state projects that didn’t use their full allocation, according to the transportation department.

The council voted to keep the reconstruction on track, although it did postpone associated work on a pump station and a Third Avenue Southwest storm sewer due to the high bids.

City manager David Waind explained that with the reconstruction, the new, wider street will accommodate more water, providing little relief to the flooding that occurs during fast, heavy rains.

That fix will come with construction of the pump station, which could happen as soon as next year. After visiting with state transportation officials, city staff decided that by rebidding the pump station and Third Avenue storm sewer in November, with more lead time until the 2014 construction season, the city might get a better deal.

The underpass, next to the city library in southwest Minot, had been scheduled for improvements in 2011 until a shortfall in federal funding derailed the project. Some initial storm sewer work was to start that year, but the intersection was under a lake of water once the flood came in June.

However, the work didn’t get done last year, either, because the final alignment for future flood control hadn’t been determined. It was unknown how the flood control project might affect the design of the underpass. Also, half of the cost of the storm sewer portion was to be specially assessed to property owners in the area, a number of whom had been devastated by the flood.

The Sixth Street project had been a victim of postponement a couple of times previously when council members shifted funding to other projects that they deemed more urgent.

The state Department of Transportation allocates federal aid to local governments so handled the bidding on the Sixth Street project, which is to be paid for with federal and local funds. The low bid on the reconstruction portion was $4.9 million, or 32.5 percent over the engineer’s estimate. The additional $1.4 million in federal funds will go toward that extra cost. The project involves paving, sidewalks, utilities and a large diameter storm sewer outfall/forcemain pipe to the river.

The lowest bid on the Sixth Street underpass pump station was $3.8 million, or 41.8 percent of the engineer’s estimate.

A proposed Third Avenue southwest storm sewer project would capture stormwater upstream on Burdick Expressway and Third Avenue in front of the Municipal Auditorium and send it to the river in the large forcemain constructed in the Sixth Street underpass project. The lowest bid was $845,017, or 46.4 percent over the engineer’s estimate.

Council members also considered the impact on the traveling public in deciding not to delay the road reconstruction portion.

The state will be replacing the Broadway Viaduct concrete deck in 2014 and 2015, restricting traffic to a single lane in each direction. If the Sixth Street underpass also were to be under construction in 2014, it would eliminate one of the north-south alternative routes. The additional work on the pump station and storm sewer can be expected to have a minimal effect on the street and traffic in 2014, city engineer Lance Meyer told the council.