The scheduled reconstruction of Orchard Drive in Bountiful this summer hit a snag Thursday when Sandy Mayor Steve Newton blocked the city's request for an additional $400,000 to $500,000 in federal construction funds.
Newton's opposition turned the normally sedate Wasatch Front Regional Council transportation committee meeting into an occasionally heated confrontation, taking on Bountiful City Engineer Jack Balling.The committee is charged with distributing federal urban highway construction funds among projects between Ogden and Salt Lake. Between the Salt Lake and Ogden districts, the funding totals just under $3 million annually.
Balling said the Orchard Drive project, which has been on the drawing boards or under periodic construction for more than a decade, is within construction cost estimates with the exception of unexpected storm drain and utility relocation costs.
Newton challenged that, saying the project's cost overruns have caused other needed projects along the Wasatch Front to be pushed back, year after year, Newton said.
Newton also said the same type of utility relocation problems cropped up in the project's first phase and should not have come as a surprise in the second phase.
The Sandy mayor said a 1987 committee policy requires projects that cost more than 10 percent of their initial estimated construction cost be dropped from the funding priority list and go back into the pool of other project proposals.
That means construction plans for Orchard Drive for this summer should be scrapped and the project should have to fight for future funds, alongside the myriad other projects in the pool, Newton said.
Balling said the actual construction costs are within the committee funding guidelines but additional storm drain construction and the utility costs could not have been anticipated when plans were drawn up.
Orchard Drive runs through an old residential area, Balling said, and engineers cannot anticipate what they will find when they tear up the old road and start excavating a new, wider roadbed.
The street, actually a state highway, is the first state highway built in Utah.
WFRC staff member Doug Hattery said the Orchard Drive widening and reconstruction project has been on the funding priority list for nearly 12 years.
The first phase was initially estimated to cost $1 million, he said, but by 1983 inflation had pushed the estimate to $1.7 million. Actual construction costs totaled $2.6 million, he said, when the utility relocation and other unexpected problems were resolved.
The second phase of reconstruction, supposed to start this summer, has $2 million budgeted, Hattery said, but Bountiful is asking for an additional $400,00 to $500,000.
That could bring the project's total cost to $5.2 million, Hattery said, more than five times the estimated cost a decade ago.
Newton said the transportation committee has accommodated cost overruns in the past by putting other projects off for a year or more but it's time now to enforce the overrun policy.
Turnover in membership on the committee is part of the problem, Newton said, with new members rotating on not knowing the history of some projects.
"It's time now to take a hard line," Newton said. "With new players coming on the committee I see a tendency to cave in to the sob story.
"We gave than an additional $500,000 in 1987 but said that's all. Now they're coming back for another $400,000. I'm making a plea for a strong, fair, but gutsy decision to say no," Newton said.
Unable to make a decision Thursday, the committee referred the project to the WFRC staff for further study and recommendations.