Pier Park overpass price tag jumps

A new pedestrian overpass will link the foot of 4th Street, at the east end of the parkade, to Westminster Pier Park, near the city market structure at Lytton Square. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
A new pedestrian overpass will link the foot of 4th Street, at the east end of the parkade, to Westminster Pier Park, near the city market structure at Lytton Square.

A connection from the Front Street Parkade to Westminster Pier Park will cost more than twice what the city estimated it would less than two years ago.

Prior to its opening in 2012, city officials said building a pedestrian overpass at the foot of Fourth Street down to the park would cost about $1.25 million. Since its opening in June 2012, the only access to the popular park has been via a parking lot on the west side of the park.

But on Monday, council was told the contract that has been awarded to build the overpass comes with a$2.5-million price tag with servicing and engineering costs driving the final price tag up to $3.2 million.

B&B Heavy Civil Construction, which won the contract, had the lowest tender of five bidders. The other four ranged from $2.675 million to $3.346 million. It's expected to be completed by August.

The city had gone through the tendering process previously but retendered it because the bids were too high. The report said the project was revised to reduce the overall cost of the structure.

"Nobody could build it for what we predicted," said Coun. Chuck Puchmayr prior to Monday's council meeting. "We were actually quite surprised at the inflation of such a structure. So they had to go back to the drawing board to see what is workable."

Puchmayr said building over the railways tracks, and finding places to put the equipment during construction of the overpass were obstacles difficult to overcome.

"It's not a straight build site, it has a lot of complications with it that has created those costs. I can't see us being able to do it for cheaper than that. Nobody was able to bid it at what was in the budget, and that's unfortunate," said Puchmayr.

Despite the sticker shock, Puchmayr maintains not building the overpass is not an option because there are safety concerns, especially at night.

"Overwhelmingly we hear from residents in that Downtown area that it's an issue with them, and it's a safety issue with them. With the railways and all the construction that's going on in that area it is a key to having a better access to that park not only for residents using the park but also for [visitors]."

Puchmayr added the project's costs will only escalate if the city put off building it.

Plans are also in the works for the current parking lot to be replaced by a development with three highrises which would make the park more difficult to get to.

"From everything I've seen [the overpass is] absolutely the most efficient way (to access the park), and it's a shame the costs have escalated," said Puchmayr.

At Monday's meeting, Coun. Bill Harper said one of the most popular decisions council has made was to build the park, but the main criticism is access to it.

"You can criticize the price if you want but you can't criticize the need. This is something we absolutely need. People have to walk half a mile to get to the park. People have said there has to be a direct link to the park," said Harper.

The report said the city's finance and engineering departments will work on adjusting the 2014 capital budget to accommodate the increased cost.

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