Revising ReVision Florence

City, Urban Renewal adapt upcoming streetscaping project to address high bids, confusion

Aug. 8, 2018 — The City of Florence, Florence Urban Renewal Agency and Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) will continue to move forward with a revised timeline for the Highway 101 ReVision Streetscaping Project. This comes after the agencies’ June decision to repackage the project after the initial bids for construction came in well over the projected estimates.

ReVision Florence is a beautification and streetscape project of Highway 101 from the Siuslaw River Bridge north to the intersection of Highway 126, and then extending east to Spruce Street.

It’s “the big topic” for Urban Renewal right now, according to Chairperson Joshua Greene.

Construction on the project is scheduled to begin in January 2019.

City Project Manager Megan Messmer released a new timeline for ReVision at the end of July, and presented a letter to Urban Renewal on Aug. 1 detailing the expected changes to business and property owners in the project’s corridors.

“Since most of them came to our open house, I just want to keep them up to date on the new process,” Messmer said. “They are now aware that the project has been delayed and that we won’t be starting construction later this month.”

The initial timeline — which planned to begin construction in August and finish by next spring — was scrapped after ODOT received bids significantly higher than the project’s $7.4 million budget. The contractor portion was estimated to cost $4.4 million, but the lowest estimate was 47 percent higher than that.

“Over the past month, our staff have been working with Murraysmith Engineering, Dougherty Landscape Architects and ODOT to address some of the items that came out of the first bid process,” Messmer said.

This included removing some items from the “biddable items” that the potential contractor would have to purchase, such as benches, bike racks and some parts of the lighting, and having the city purchase and install those directly.

“We don’t need to pay the profit margin of a contractor, subcontractor and engineering management from ODOT to acquire those,” Messmer said. “We can much more easily purchase those outside of the contract, and Public Works has the capability of installing those. We’d also track their work as part of this project.”

In addition, ReVision will feature some economies of scale not present in the initial bid process by bidding the project under one proposal. This will cover both ODOT’s paving of the roadways and the city and Urban Renewal’s streetscaping.

“Our philosophy as we move forward with this is we do want to maintain all the infrastructure pieces and the hardscape — the sidewalks, the ADA ramps and the plazas … and updating the lighting, the irrigation, undergrounding — all those things that will be difficult to do after they pave the road,” Messmer said. “That’s the direction we have provided to our engineers.”

Some components will be postponed until the main construction is finished and completed by either another contractor or Public Works.

Under the new timeline, the final design is due to ODOT on Aug. 10. Once it is reviewed, ODOT will pass it on to the Oregon Office of Project Letting, which will send it out to bid around Oct. 11. The bid application process will be open for five weeks.

“One thing will do this time, which we did not do last time, will be a mandatory pre-bid meeting for contractors,” Messmer said. “It’s a chance for contractors who are interested in bidding to come, meet with us, the consultants and engineers and get more information on the project. At that point, they can ask questions and we can make sure all the bidders get those answers. It also provides them an opportunity to actually walk the area and see things in person that they may have questions on.”

The contractor meeting will be held on Oct. 25.

“Construction would then begin in January and go through the end of September, which is just the typical ODOT construction season,” Messmer said.

Through consultation with ODOT and project engineers, Messmer said the city was able to achieve “a win” for the future contractor.

“A lot of this is summertime work, so not being allowed to close lanes on Highway 101 was a big hurdle, causing night work throughout the full project,” she said. “We were able to appeal that decision through our maintenance side of ODOT, as opposed to the capital investment side. They have agreed to allow us to close one lane during the day for this project.”

This means that from Monday through Thursday, the traffic plan will include lane closures of one lane at a time during the daytime hours, as well as during the night shift.

“ODOT is concerned about weekend traffic, so that lane closure would not be allowed Friday through Sunday,” Messmer said.

By allowing some of the construction to continue throughout the day, “It takes out a lot of the risk of doing night work for the contractor,” she added.

City Manager Erin Reynolds said, “More than anything, having consistency across the entire project time period for whatever they’re doing — traffic control, management of closures, etc. — if they can do the same thing throughout the duration of the project, that buys down your cost. …

“Plus, it is consistent for the community. Once they get over the initial shock of the lane closure, then you just get more accustomed to it occurring.”

The City of Florence is working to develop resources for a Business Toolbox to help community members adapt during the process. In addition, Florence Area Chamber of Commerce has plans to support businesses and the economy while construction continues.

In looking at the previous bids and numbers from the current construction season, Messmer said the agencies are hopeful that the new bids will come in around $4 million.

“Murraysmith provided us with a midpoint estimate a couple weeks ago and we went through that to consider more options to reduce cost, which is where this list came from,” she said. “We’re using updated figures in our estimate, because there has been a lot of change between last season and this season, as well as a demand on construction.”

The $4 million estimated for construction also allows for a 10 percent buffer.

Engineers are working with ODOT to make sure the project estimates match.

Reynolds said, “Our goal is to keep it the total budget at $7.4 million, which includes the design, engineering and all the work so far — the right of way acquisition, construction management costs and ODOT fees — as well as the actual cost of doing the work.”

In the actual construction, the contractor will be laying framework for some items that will come in at the end of the project. This will include the decorative monuments at the “gateways to Old Town” on Quince Street and Highway 126 and Maple Street and Highway 101. The contractor will only be in charge of building the bases, not doing the actual construction of the arched monuments.

“Urban Renewal and the city can come in after the fact and do a separate contract to create those monuments,” Messmer said. “That was one thing through the process and hearing from the contractors that they said was an issue. It’s a very specialty work; it’s artwork within a paving and street construction project. They aren’t necessarily the contractors that would do that, normally. … Removing those from an ODOT project will save us quite a bit of money and allow us to get better contractors who can do that specialized work.”

Reynolds said the monuments were already designed, which would make it easier to bill the right person to create and install them.

The contractor will also be installing a conduit for the six separate utilities to “underground” their lines. This will include optical fiber, phone lines and electricity.

In general, ReVision will still provide an updated, narrower roadway on Highway 101, more pedestrian amenities and better landscaping and storm water management. Some of the smaller things won’t be as visible at first, though many will be included soon after the main construction ends.

“Our end product, for the most part, will be what we set out for, which will be the sidewalks, the underground utilities, new paving and the plazas,” Reynolds said. “What you see is really what we want to be providing. There are other nuances and ‘nice to haves’ that we may have to forgo at this time, based on cost and budget.”

That includes the removal of some of the landscaped bioswales that were added to balance the ones necessary for storm water management.

Mayor Joe Henry, a member of Urban Renewal, said he hoped ReVision will still look “beautiful like it shows in the brochure” and that the project will not exceed the $7.4 million budget.

“That is our plan,” Reynolds said. “If things change in the bidding process and we have to go back with costs, that is a potential, but it is not what we’re aiming for. … We’re doing everything that really needs to be done now, and leaving things that can be put back with little to no disruption at some point in the future, if that’s something the city or Urban Renewal wants to do.”

One component that Public Works will be able to install will be arms on the light poles that will cast more light at the pedestrian level. While more light is not necessarily needed in all the areas, the agencies approved the aesthetics of the poles. The current project bid will not have the main contractor install those, but will leave a plate over where the arm could be installed later, as well as brackets for banners and flower baskets. 

“Part of our direction from the board last time was to make sure we intensely monitor the work of Murraysmith to make sure we’re getting the best numbers that we can and really have a better understanding of anything that can have cost savings,” Reynolds said. “They very much understand where we are at and what we are trying to accomplish.”

At the end of the Urban Renewal meeting, Greene said, “I’m optimistic as always, but a little nervous right now. I’m looking forward to hearing those numbers and seeing the designs.”

He spoke briefly about the meeting at the Florence City Council meeting on Aug. 6.

“The outcome of the 101 ReVision Project, which Urban Renewal, the councilors and staff have been working on, is going to turn out for the better. There’s a lot of reorganizing that is going on … to see where we can save some money while not losing the aesthetics and the beauty of the concept that we’ve all embraced,” he said. “We’re learning new ways to do it for the future. It is a little bit of a setback, but I think the outcome is going to be an educational one. If this turns out to be the solution, it will be a good example for other communities to consider too.”

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