Contract approved with caveat that final cost will be negotiated downward

by: JOSH KULLA - The Boeckman Road Bridge opened in 2008 and has experienced problems with soil settling ever since. Opened in 2008, the Boeckman Road Bridge already has garnered a checkered history.

It was discovered soon after being unveiled that the ramps at either end of the $20 million bridge were slowly settling into soft soil that was expected to bear the structure’s weight.

The bridge itself has been closed to all traffic, vehicle and foot, for the past year. But the structure actually rests on pilings and never was in significant danger, according to city engineers.

Nonetheless, that mistake ultimately resulted in the city of Wilsonville agreeing to a 2011 legal settlement worth close to $1 million with the contractor responsible, Nebraska-based HDR Engineering.

In the meantime, the city has been preparing to carry out the repairs needed to make the bridge safe. It’s a vital east-west link across central Wilsonville, and the city scrambled to find a qualified contractor before the end of the 2013 construction season.

Last month, the Wilsonville City Council approved a $1.4 million bid to carry out the needed work.

The complication came from two factors. One, it was the only bid for the project received by the city. The second is that because the single bid from Kerr Contractors, a Woodburn-based firm specializing in heavy civil projects, was more than $200,000 above the city’s projected budget for the project, the two parties were engaged in renegotiation at the time of the council’s July 15 meeting.

“The single bid came in over budget” said Nancy Kraushaar, Wilsonville director of planning and community development. “And since this is time sensitive, how to do we close the gap without coming to the next council meeting? ... We wanted to start construction before then. This is an unusual situation.”

In the end, councilors voted 4-0 to award the contract to Kerr Contractors. The resolution also authorizes City Manager Bryan Cosgrove to engage in negotiations with the bidder in an attempt to find a compromise in line with the city’s $1.2 million for the project.

It also authorizes Cosgrove to end negotiations and decline the bid altogether, should the parties prove unable to reach agreement. As of press time, word on negotiation results had not been released.

“We’ll get as close as we can,” Cosgrove told the council. “Keep in mind that if we don’t do this project, you’re going to have upset citizens. This road is going to be closed for another construction year, and if we’re going to go back to bid a year from now, as the economy is picking up and you’re looking at probably 20 to 30 percent higher costs than the negotiated settlement. The downside of not going forward with this project is significantly more.”

The project itself will feature the reconstruction of some 400 feet of roadway at both ends of the bridge. This had to be demolished because of excessive settling that created steep grades approaching the bridge.

The city attempted to mitigate the problem by imposing slower speed limits for vehicles, but that did little to stop the settling.

From October 2012 through spring 2013 a 13-foot-high “surcharge” of rock has sat on the roadway bed to further compress underlying soils.

The city hired Hart Crowser Inc. as project manager and geotechnical engineer for the reconstruction project. The redesign cost just more than $334,000. The cost of the construction work itself is budgeted at $980,000 — roughly the amount of the claim settlement.

“I think it’s very important that we open up this road,” said Councilor Susie Stevens, noting she even campaigned for office last fall in part on this issue. “I know it’s been very frustrating for citizens over there. The money part is important, but so is the transportation part.”

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