RFPs to nowhere. Managing expectations.

Ask anyone what they think the most important job of a City is and they will probably say something that includes the words ‘roads’, ‘bridges’, and ‘sewers’.

It is without question that the biggest bill the city faces in terms of tangible, in-your-face, infrastructure is maintaining and replacing those three general things.  So it follows that when the public sees a project that is not performing as well as they expect, that they are especially annoyed. I think the Gertrude Street bridge project falls safely into that category now.

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Here is a time-lapse of its progress from the beginning of February to last Wednesday.

The great controversy has been on the delay and cost overruns.  Certainly one can understand the frustration when initial reports were that the full road closure that started Feb. 3 would “run for three weeks.

Work actually started in the last week of January so we are now entering week 11. Is this a huge time delay that could have been avoided or could this have been predicted?  The best place to look is the bids in response to the Request for Proposals which were in the October 26, 2015 regular agenda package.

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City Council selected the middle quote from K&G with the addendum at the bottom “Precast Option” which put the original price to $249,500 and shortened their original 9 week start/end period by 2 weeks to 7.  Note this was for completion of the whole project, not just the closure of the bridge to traffic.

Other bids from Surespan, Bowerman, Hazelwood and Seismic 2000 had time periods of 9, 11, 8 and 9 weeks respectively.

So by that measure we are actually not far off.  We’re certainly towards the maximum of the alloted times in those bids, but we are not anywhere near the 4x longer than it would seem from the “3 week” window of closure which people may have implicitly taken as the full length of the project.  With the now expected closure lasting until the end of April that will bring us to 14 weeks.  Certainly longer than conceived in any of the RFPs, but allowing for unforeseen issues that do happen from project to project, it is not as stunning to consider.

There is no doubt in my mind that the bill will be higher than the already raised $347,000.  I hope I am wrong.  However, the positive is that this will be a learning experience for both our City staff and City Council.  We have a number of other bridges that are going to need to be renovated or replaced soon.  I hope that the lessons learned here will make it more likely for those projects to go much more smoothly and come in on time, and on budget as I believe is the norm for projects in the City.

P.S.

I have been asked a few times what the purpose of the bridge project was as many have heard that it was only to provide bike lanes.  In fact, the surface of the bridge deck was in need of overhaul as well as the pedestrian walkway and railings.

Here is the full background from the October 6 agenda:

City Council’s approval is requested to award the tender for the construction of the Gertrude
Street Bridge Widening that has been planned for construction in 2015.

Background:

The Gertrude Bridge is a narrow point in our road system that creates a safety issues as it is a well-travelled pedestrian and cyclist path that is also close to AW Neil School. The project was proposed in 2014 to widen the road surface for cyclists and install a separate sidewalk bridge
over Kitsuskis Creek.

The separate sidewalk bridge over Kitsuskis Creek was installed in 2014 upstream of the
existing bridge and the vehicle bridge work was carried over to 2015.

The existing bridge has a treated timber sub structure that is in good condition, however, there are some operational issues:

The asphalt surface bridge deck and timber wheel guards need to be replaced.

The road and sidewalks widths are too narrow for pedestrians and cyclists.

In summary the project components include:

1. Removing the timber wheel guard rails and sidewalk
2. Extending the timber substructure and installing 2 steel girders for the length of the
bridge.
3. Resurfacing the bridge
4. Installing a railing and guard rail on each side of the bridge for cyclists.

The 2015 Capital Budget allocated $250,000 for this bridge widening project.

2 thoughts on “RFPs to nowhere. Managing expectations.”

  1. Dear councillor Alemany
    Please consider my unsolicited opinion. If you are not getting full answers to your questions at City Council you could speak to the office of the Auditor General in Victoria. If you truly want to find out what went wrong with the project and what can be done to ensure the City of P.A. bid process is fair to both taxpayers and contractors you may need to go to an objective outside agency. Ask the question in Public at City Council about a review involving the Office of the Auditor General… then make your next decision accordingly. Be aware of deflection or distraction from others… this is about politics after all.
    Once the bridge project is completed and open to the public the opportunity to investigate the matter will dissipate quickly.
    Just a few public thoughts from an Alberni Valley cynic.
    Larry Ransom

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