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Reconstruction bids for Sutliff Bridge well below estimate

SUTLIFF– A drop in the price of steel means a smaller price tag for rebuilding the historic Sutliff Bridge.
Tim McDermott with VJ Engineering presented the six bids his firm had received for the project at a Tuesday, Nov. 22, informal meeting of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors.
The high bid came from Taylor Construction at $2,332,327, which was close to the original estimate. The low bid, which will be formally approved at the next board meeting, came from Iowa Bridge and Culvert for $1,582,097.95.
“The important thing, I guess, is you’re pretty well below the engineer’s estimate,” Supervisor Rod Sullivan stated.
“Correct,” McDermott answered. He explained the primary reason is the current difference in the price of steel. “When we originally did the feasibility study, we were quoted from a steel fabricator a price of roughly $10 per pound of steel. Apparently that’s changed in the last year.”
The bridge, built in 1898, was partially destroyed in the 2008 record flooding. The reconstruction project will replace the 155-foot timber approach span on the west side of the bridge and replace the 27-foot timber approach span on the east, with the construction of a new east end abutment. Strengthening and other repairs will be made to the surviving two spans, which will include a new timber deck and new handrails. The missing east span will be replaced with a brand new 215-foot steel truss in the bridge’s Parker Truss style. In addition, tuckpointing and scour protection will be performed on the existing limestone piers.
With engineering fees, which McDermott guessed at around $320,000, the total cost will be around $2 million. The bid is strictly for construction which McDermott explained was “as-built, erection, fabrication, everything.” VJ Engineering’s fees were contracted by the county separately last year.
Construction will begin in the spring of 2012 and is expected to be completed next fall.
Supervisors Terrance Neuzil and Janelle Rettig were concerned about cost over-runs or changes in material prices, and who would pay for them. McDermott and Sullivan assured them FEMA will cover whatever is in the contract.
“Every time we go through contracts,” Neuzil said, “it seems something pops up, like ‘where did that come from? Who pays for that?’” He emphasized he wanted to be sure the board is explaining to the public, “it’s not Johnson County that’s paying, it’s a project the Federal and State government is paying for.”
A 3-2 vote by the Supervisors in April 2010 set the wheels in motion for the aforementioned feasibility study, as well as the county taking ownership of the bridge back from the Sutliff Bridge Authority (SBA), a group of locals dedicated to preserving and maintaining the bridge. The move made the bridge eligible for FEMA funding.