All over this city there are roads badly in need of repair. Only some will get any kind of fix-up this year, others may not even get it next year.
Yet council on Monday night may just decide to spend about $7 million on an upgrade to Bay Street that will see it reduced to two lanes but, the idea seems to be, make it pleasing to the eye.
I suppose, if council does decide to go ahead, we, the taxpayers, can be thankful for one thing: The cost will not be as great as it could have been.
Only one tender was received, from Pioneer Construction Inc., for $8,571,376. The pre-tender estimate was $7,399,104, excluding HST, which was 16% below the tendered price.
However, the price tag that will be going to council for the reconstruction will be $6,799,476.50 as several items were dropped from the project as proposed. There will, of course, still be the cost for the work of Kresin Engineering Corporation, which council will be asked to increase from $477,650 to $580,000 because of its increased work load because of the changes to the project.
Kresin and city staff had entered into negotiations with Pioneer that resulted in changes to the schedule of items and prices:
Kresin, in a report to Carl Rumiel, manager, design and transportation engineering with the city, said this included:
1. A reduction in the provisional items for sanitary and storm sewer work, equipment rental and similar items;
2. Elimination of optional upgrades to pedestrian trail lighting systems;
3. Elimination of landscaped parkettes at Russ Ramsay Way and at East Street;
4. Revisions to the price and quantity of planting bed soil;
5. Substitution using concrete in lieu of unit paver treatment to boulevards;
6. Revisions to unit pricing on various items.
Rumiel, in his report that will be going to council on Monday, listed the changes that resulted as:
1..Removal of proposed gathering locations;
2. Removal of unit pavers in the boulevard (replace with concrete);
3. Removal of concrete curb around planters;
4. Reduce the depth of planting bed soil
Whatever the case, implementation of the agreed changes resulted in a price reduction of $1,771,899.50.
The total price of $7.4 million, as far as I am concerned, is still far too high for what is mainly a through street, with very little in the way of business along it.
My druthers would have been to simply upgrade the street by doing what was required to the sewage and storm lines beneath it and then reducing it to three lanes simply by repainting the lanes on the new pavement to allow for bike paths on each side of the street..
This reduction to three lanes was actually proposed back in 2015 and for a lot lighter price tag.
The preferred alternative at that time by a study conducted for the city was to reduce Bay Street to three lanes with the pedestrian sidewalk remaining on the north side of the street and a multi-use path being incorporated into the south side. A landscaped boulevard would separate them from the traffic lanes.
The estimated capital cost of this project was a mere, if millions can ever be considered mere, $2.8 million.
Even when the two-laning of Bay Street evolved into the preferred option, the original estimated price tag was much lower than what we are looking at now.
In an analysis included in a report going to council Monday night, Rumiel pegged that estimated cost at $4.94 million.:
“This project began as a partial reconstruction and conversion to two lanes with a multi-use trail after the Downtown Traffic Environmental Assessment (EA) was complete,” he says in his report..
“Subsequent to the original budget estimate of $4.94 million staff acted on Council’s wishes that it be a signature project which meant a re-scoping to include enhanced landscaping and
active transportation amenities such as street furnishings, pedestrian lighting, bus
shelters, bicycle racks, waste receptacles and drinking fountains.
“The pre-tender estimate (post design), which was not received until after the tender was
issued, estimated the work to be at $7.4 million. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity to
share the pre-tender estimate without compromising the competitive bid process.
“Only one (1) tender was received. It was from Pioneer Construction Inc., which was found
to be complete and is summarized on the attached report from Kresin Engineering. The
tender value is $8,571,376 (excluding HST).
“In an attempt to bring this project closer in line with available funds, the Engineering
Division and Kresin Engineering entered into a negotiation with Pioneer Construction to
reduce the scope of work”
This, as already mentioned, brought about the reduction in price.
But the city was still short a lot of money when the initial estimate of $4.94 million was put against the new figure of nearly $7 million.
To get around this Rumiel in his report says staff recommends that $1,900,000 of the Special
2019 Gas Tax funds originally allocated to the Downtown Initiative and $600,000
allocated to resurfacing projects be redirected to the Bay Street project.
The latter, of course, refers to the roads in disrepair that I mentioned in the lead of this piece, some of them not going to get much-needed repair.
I have never been able to fully come to grips with council’s fascination for Bay Street.
I think it is nice to have beautiful roadways running through the city, but I can’t stop questioning whether the cost is worth it.
I know politicians always have great things in mind for the city but I sometimes wonder if they ever look around to see what is going on.
All our malls have many empty spaces, the Station Mall now having lost its two anchor stores in Sears and Walmart.
With the major shopping area in the city now in the north end, what is the purpose in putting out millions for a project that is really “signature” only in the eyes of council?
To the common person out there I will bet it means nothing at all. No one I have spoken with about two-laning Bay Street has a good word to say about it.
I am not about to say that what is proposed for Bay Street would be like putting lipstick on a pig or attempting to build a Taj Mahal on a piker’s budget, but I do hope Council will take into account that this is Sault Ste. Marie, not Ottawa or Toronto where federal and provincial money, respectively, flows freely.