Improvements planned for the east end of Eisenhower Avenue have come back significantly over budget and city staff are working to find a new funding source.
The Eisenhower Avenue Roadway Improvement Project would add a left turn lane onto westbound Eisenhower Avenue at Mill Road — a site of frequent congestion as Mill Road leads up to the Beltway — and Mill Road would be widened. At the other end of the improvements, the traffic circle at the end of Eisenhower Avenue to the east would be replaced with a T intersection.
The project also includes benefits for pedestrians and bicyclists, like various streetscape improvements and new bike facilities on adjacent roads. The plan aims to support new development proposed for the area, which includes updates to the small area plan to create more retail and residential zoning in the area.
The project is paid for primarily through state and federal funding. The project was budgeted for $9.4 million, but that cost has swelled to $11.6 million.
The biggest budget problem came when the city opened up the construction contract for bidding. The lowest bid of $6.6 million still exceeded the budget of $5.1 million. (The total project cost also includes design, land acquisition and other expenses.)
“There was some bid price clustering, which provides comfort that the low bid reflects the current market,” City Manager Mark Jinks said in a memo to the City Council. “For more than just the last year the construction market has been very hard to predict as construction prices for materials and labor have been increasing at a faster pace than in previous years. This is a situation that other public entities as well as the private sector have been experiencing.”
The city has three options now, according to Jinks.
- Cancel the project, which would mean the city would need to repay VDOT $2 million in land acquisition cost and $1.6 million in design costs — which is more expensive than closing the budget gap.
- Reduce the scope of the project, which Jinks said is not viable as the key project elements are required to meet transportation capacity needs. Also, Jinks noted that redesign would add more time to the project and likely lead to more construction cost inflation.
- Provide additional funding from the city to close the project funding gap.
Jinks said only the third option was viable, and staff identified $400,000 in savings from a Van Dorn Metro station project and $900,000 in savings from the reconstruction of Montgomery Street that can be used to help close the gap.
“To completely close this cap, [$900,000] in excess CIP bond interest earnings which would have not yet been programmed for a CIP project can be made available for the Eisenhower Avenue Roadway Improvement Project,” Jinks said.
The additional funding for the project is scheduled for a vote at the Saturday, Jan. 25, City Council meeting.
Top photo via Google Maps, map of improvement project via City of Alexandria