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Speedvale Avenue reconstruction plan on hold after tenders come in over budget

City staff to look at potential changes, including project timeline, in hopes of getting lower bids
20210324 Speedvale bridge from river bank RV
View of the Speedvale Avenue bridge, east of Woolwich Street, from the eastern river bank. Richard Vivian/GuelphToday file photo.

City plans to reconstruct a section of Speedvale Avenue, including replacing the bridge over Speed River, have been put on hold after contractor bids came in significantly over budget. 

A new timeline for the project isn’t known, but the delay will likely be “at least a year,” says Reg Russwurm, the city’s manager of design and construction.

However, that’s something city staff hope to figure out in the months ahead, as they look to refine aspects of the project with an eye toward bringing down the price.

“This is a high profile project with a number of implications,” said Russwurm. “No decisions have been made on how we’re proceeding yet.”

Construction bids for this stage of the project – from Glenwood Avenue to Marlborough Road, including replacing the bridge – were received on Aug. 12 and all came in over the anticipated $10 million cost. The lowest bid received was $15.2 million.

“It was a bit of a surprise to us,” Russwurm said, suggesting contractors may have built in additional labour and material costs given current shortages and the multi-year aspect of the project.

“Are we entering a new era of increased construction costs?” he wondered, adding he’s heard of similar situations playing out in other municipalities. “We’re in a time of uncertainty for our contractors in terms of what their costs are really … They don’t know what the answer is either.”

The bridge was to close next June for about six months, with traffic rerouted to other crossings.

Russwurm hopes to see a new tender package issued early next year to solicit revised or additional bids that are closer in line with anticipated costs. The project as a whole, including phase two, has a council-approved budget of $19.2 million.

Phase two encompasses Speedvale Avenue from Malborough Road to Manhattan Court.

A staff team is set to meet in the coming weeks to discuss potential adjustments to that package, such as the timeline for work to be done, the manager noted. Contributing to that conversation will be the results of a detailed condition assessment currently underway for the bridge.

“The bridge is being replaced because it’s approaching the end of its life,” Russwurm said, explaining replacement is likely to come in 2023 rather than 2022.  “There’s not over concerns with the safety of the bridge.”

On a related note, city council directed staff in June to investigate the feasibility of a northern street-level to underpass trail connection at the Speedvale Avenue bridge – possibly a loop to take people down under the bridge and bring them back up on the other side of the road – and bring forward ideas for budget consideration.

Russwurm said a budget request for design work will be ready for council’s consideration as it heads into 2022 deliberations later this fall.

No matter what happens with that, the new bridge is to be built with an underpass for the future connection of trails on both sides of Speedvale Avenue.

“Now that the bridge work is delayed at least a year, then there may be some ramifications for this trail work as well,” Russwurm said. “They will not be wanting to do that work before the bridge is done.”