BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The city is two years behind on a planned reconstruction of Hwy. 61 through town.
And mayor-elect Matt Mohrfeld wants to step on the gas a little bit.
At Tuesday’s regular board meeting, Mohrfeld said he didn’t see the reason to keep doing the work in phases.
“”Can we do it all at once?” Mohrfeld said.
“The money is there, the grants are there. You said it would take longer, but it is any different.”
HR Green’s Tim Cutsforth said he would have to look into the financing and grant timing on the rest of the phases.
“We have to verify the timing of the money…of the (Surface Transportation Block) grants. I don’t know if we can do that kind of a project yet, without having that money.’
Cutsforth said the money has been approved, but he couldn’t remember the years on the grants.
Mohrfeld said with the city is as far behind as it is, he didn’t think that would be an issue.
“Could you at least have a discussion on how that would impact the delay to businesses and citizens. It can’t be that unusual that your chunking up 12 blocks at a time,” Mohrfeld said.
Mayor Brad Randolph said he appreciated the idea of getting it done, but it’s a huge section of the highway.
“The perceived inconvenience, though, will be something that would have to be worked through,” he said.
Councilman Rusty Andrews said it’s not just laying the pavement, but also putting in sewer lines would be rough.
“It’s one mobilization, one mile. They do that on highways all the time,” Mohrfeld said.
Cutsforth said the idea had merit.
“It certainly could be done. It would take two construction seasons regardless for sure. It’s just too big of a stretch,” Cutsforth said. “But it’s an interesting idea.”
Councilman Chris Greenwald said, as a business owner he’s not sure he would want his road torn up for two years straight. He also asked if HR Green could look at the option without additional charges.
“Does this $451,000 include you telling us what that would look like?” he asked Cutsforth.
“We can build it, and we can phase it, it’s just that you guys will have to take the phone calls,” Cutsforth said.
Mohrfeld said the design and build out won’t be any different if it’s two phases or one.
Andrews said people are going to complain when a guy is putting storm sewer in on 7th Street and no one is working the other six blocks. He also said it would be hard on contractors to leave several blocks open along the route to access downtown.
“You’re gonna guarantee a contractor out of Des Moines is gonna come in here with 13 excavators one on every block putting storm sewer system in?” Andrews said.
Mohrfeld said the city hasn’t had a lot of luck getting contractors on four block chunks.
“If we keep doing the same thing, do we get the same result? Do we have a different bidding pool, then?” he said.
The money Mohrfeld is referring to is the money the state gave to Fort Madison when it turned over jurisdiction of the highway to the city back in 2013 in exchange for $13.9 million when the bypass was constructed. The city has also secured federal grants to help pay for the work.
The project also included redoing several intersections such as the 27th Street and Avenue L intersection, which was completed in 2018, and straightening the curve in the 3500 and 3600 blocks of Avenue L, which was completed this year.
Cutsforth said the city will need to start showing some work on remaining phases to hold onto the grant money.
The city council voted 6-0, to pay HR Green just over $450,000 for design and construction management of the second phase of the project which will run from 6th Street to 10th Street.
Randolph suggested that the cost might go up some doing the 12-block stretch, but it would probably be cheaper than the 20% the city would pay engineers for design and construction management for Phase III, which is from 10th to 18th streets.
Plans include removing the current roadway and replacing it with concrete, including curbing and sidewalks. The road will be converted to a three-lane highway with a center turning lane.
Phase 1, from 2nd to 6th Streets and the one-way pairs on 18th and 20th Street should be completed by Thanksgiving 2020. The phase from 6th to 10th should be bid next year with construction set for April 1 in 2021.
But Mohrfeld said increasing the project from 6th to 18th might entice more bidders from further away which could make the price tag more competitive.
Randolph asked Cutsforth to come back at the beginning of the year with a brief synopsis on what doing the 12-block stretch would look like.
In other action, the council:
• voted 6-0, to refinance approximately $11 million in water revenue bonds at a lower interest rate. The move could save the city more than $1 million over the remainder of the term.
• voted 6-0, to accept completion of the Avenue L reconstruction from 35th to 36th streets.
• voted 6-0, to approve the first reading of vacating a portion of city-owned right of way in the 3500 block of Avenue L.