Anoka will go out for bids on a project to build a new road and signalized intersection north of Anoka High School.
The intersection, on Bunker Lake Boulevard, will provide full signalized access to the new Rum River Shores housing development, as well as the Anoka High School campus and Castle Field.
The new service road will be called Castle Field Boulevard, according to Public Services Director Greg Lee.
But the cost of the project has likely increased significantly since the city first had it evaluated a year ago, Lee told the council.
Based on the feasibility report, the estimated cost of the Castle Field Boulevard extension and the intersection was about $1.4 million, but based on the plans and specifications it’s up to about $1.9 million,” he said.
This $500,000 increase is indicative of what the city is seeing on a number of recently bid projects.
“I think what’s happening in the construction industry as a whole is not only unit prices but also general costs for constructing public improvement projects have been increasing over the last few months,” Lee said.
Many of the contractors are also very busy with projects this season and are having difficulty either hiring qualified workers or are reluctant to hire because of an uncertain future, Lee said.
As part of the development agreement for Rum River Shores, Landmark Development has agreed to contribute $230,000 toward the cost of the signal at the intersection of Bunker Lake and Castle Field boulevards.
The project will also require the relocation of a parking lot at Gray Ghost Field, which will be moved off Sixth Avenue, just to the east of the soccer fields and west of the ice arena.
According to Councilmember Carl Anderson, in the plans the roadway is designed to be much wider toward the new Bunker Lake Boulevard intersection compared with the current Seventh Avenue connection.
Lee said the reason is traffic volumes.
“The traffic volumes will be far less there (at Seventh Avenue) than the traffic volumes at Bunker Lake Boulevard,” Lee said.
In the future, that Seventh Avenue connection could be reduced to a three quarter intersection, which does not allow left turns, or a right-in, right out only, he said.
But the unexpected rise in cost of the project is cause for concern.
Finance Director Lori Yager is proposing to cover the gap by using the street renewal fund balance. By doing this, the funding source would be down to about $300,000 after this project is complete, Yager said.
Ideally, Lee said the city would like to have the intersection work complete this fall so traffic won’t be disrupted on Bunker Lake Boulevard another year. Anoka County currently has a road improvement project underway in that area.
The new lanes, including curbing, would be installed this fall and the signal installation and construction of Castle Field Boulevard would be completed next summer before the start of the 2014-2015 school year.
But the city is also willing to postpone the entire project until next year if it means a better price.
City Manager Tim Cruikshank said that while it would be nice to get the lanes in this fall, the city has to ask what it’s worth.
“I’m not ready to spend an extra half million dollars to get this done in the fall,” said Mayor Phil Rice.
“If these bids don’t come in favorably, I wouldn’t be opposed to rejecting the bids. The hope is that by looking at this, this late in the fall is that we’ll get people basically after they are finished with their summer projects. I have heard other contractors remarking they have had a very, very busy year this year, but the fall looks good.”
Lee said when the advertisement for bids goes out, it will include options for construction this fall, as well as next year.
The council is expected to review the bids and possibly award a contract Oct. 7.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at