News

Road bills go up with extra work

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

Two road improvement projects in Federal Way are turning out to be more expensive than anticipated, but city officials are planning to fill in the gaps with money saved from other road projects that came in under budget.

At the city Land-Use and Transportation Committee meeting March 17, officials said the South 312th Street project was shaping up to cost about $181,000 more than planners initially thought, and a project at South 288th Street was coming in at $470,000 more than anticipated.

Public Works officials are attributing the higher costs to the installation of traffic signals at both intersections, among other things. Neither signal was part of either project in earlier planning.

City officials decided to install traffic signals at the intersection of Eighth Avenue South and South 312th because the amount of traffic warrants them. But adding the signals means the city will have to install technology to allow the signals to communicate with each other.

“Eighth and 312th is a goofy intersection,” city traffic engineer Rick Perez said. “We’re basically signaling two intersections. Costs were higher than anticipated.”

In addition, costs crept up because “sidewalks and curb ramps were in worse shape than we thought, so repairing them cost more than we anticipated,” Perez said.

While the city hasn’t gone to bid yet for the project — and therefore doesn’t know what final costs will be — the city does have about $500,000 left over from the recently completed South 320th Street and Pacific Highway South project.

If a project comes in under budget — which they do when the contractor proposes to do one for less than the city budgeted — the remaining money is sent to an unallocated capital improvement fund and can be available for other projects.

The Land-Use and Transportation Committee agreed to transfer $200,000 from the unallocated fund to the South 312th Street project to cover any more unanticipated costs.

“We’re trying to play it safe and make sure we’ve got the money lined up when the bids come in,” Perez said.

The committee on March 17 also recommended the City Council send the project to bid. The city will award the project to the lowest “responsive, responsible bidder,” according to the recommendation.

Estimates for road improvement work on a separate project at South 288th and Pacific Highway are approximately $470,000 higher than projected, city street systems manager Marwan Salloum told committee members March 17, and city officials are looking to the unallocated fund to cover the difference in that case, too.

Councilman Dean McColgan, a member of the committee, expressed concern with the underestimate.

“To miss the estimate by $500,000, that’s a big miss on a $2.5 million project,” he said.

Public Works officials said the cost increases on South 288th came from having to pay the entire cost of burying overhead utility lines and from installing a traffic signal.

The signal wasn’t initially part of the project because it won’t be needed for another five or 10 years, but traffic planners decided to install it now.

“The queue on 288th approaching (Pacific) is a concern,” Public Works director Carey Roe said. “Any time you have a long queue, someone leaves a gap, someone tries to get through and accidents happen. We’re tying to be proactive.”

He said the traffic signal ultimately could be dropped from the project if the cost ends up being too high.

Another cost bump came from legal fees after six land parcels went to condemnation proceedings. In previous reports to the committee, city officials didn’t know what the total legal costs would be, Salloum said.

As with the South 312th project, Roe said money in the unallocated fund could be used to cover the costs for South 288th.

$500,000 “is a lot of money,” he said. “Whether that zeroes out the unallocated fund, I don’t think so.”

Public Works officials announced recently they will be making additional improvements to South 324th Street as part of Phase I of the State Route 99 improvement project.

“Initially, this was part of Phase II, but we just accelerated this work and gave it to this contractor so we don’t have to tear up the intersection twice,” Perez said. “We were able to get pretty good prices now.”

Road work along South 324th will include widening the street to five lanes from west of the Scuba Set store to east of 17th Avenue South, plus the addition of curbs, gutters, sidewalks, decorative lights and street trees.

Work on the project is expected to finish Oct. 31.

Staff writer Erica Jahn: 925-5565, ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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