Emergency bridge repair funds to be pulled from other Scottsdale projects, city officials say

The center of 68th Street Bridge in Scottsdale has been deemed unsafe by transportation officials. The two inside lanes of traffic have been restricted. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

It will take a combined $13.22 million to make emergency repairs to the Drinkwater and 68th Street bridges, leading the Scottsdale City Council to unanimously approve several transfers totaling that amount from other city projects.

This item was a part of the consent agenda during a Tuesday, Oct. 16 City Council meeting at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd. The council discussed the topic, while still voting for it as part of consent.

The council also approved two construction manager at-risk contracts, which allows for design and construction to be planned simultaneously, rather than staggered.

The first CMAR contract was with Haydon Building Corporation for about $5.48 million for Phase 2 construction services for the Drinkwater Bridge Interim Structural Repairs project. The other was for about $3.44 million with FNF Construction for construction services for the 68th Street Bridge reconstruction.

City Engineer Dave Lipinski outlined various sources of the funds. In total, the Drinkwater Bridge repairs will cost $8.57 million and the 68th Street Bridge will cost $4.65 million, the city estimates.

Sources include funds from the cancellation of Capital Improvement Plan projects; leftover funds from completed CIP projects; and contingency funds. Canceled projects include sidewalk repairs, trail improvements and streetlight replacement, among others.

Councilman David Smith expressed concern over how the city would refill the contingency funds after their use on the bridges.

“We are sacrificing projects and moving them out beyond conceivable times, we are moving money between funds with no evidence of going to repay it,” he said during the meeting.

“So I am not satisfied. These contingency funds, we do not replenish them every year. We only replenish them if we use them. They’re normally there for whatever may come up, but we’ll have to replenish these funds next year. I don’t know how we’re going to do it.”

Funding sources

Mr. Lipinski estimated $3.9 million of the $4.65 million for the 68th Street Bridge will come from canceled projects or reduced budgets on projects where minor work was completed.

In total, city staff identified 12 CIP projects that will serve as sources for the 68th Street Bridge. The city plans to scrap its Southbound Loop 101 Frontage Road Connections project and the WestWorld Trail Connections project.

The city will also use a combined $700,000 in savings from the Frank Lloyd Wright: Scottsdale Road to Shea Boulevard project and the Mustang Transit Passenger Facility project. The rest will come from annually funded projects, known as “Y” projects, that include bikeway programs, trail improvements and street light improvements, Mr. Lipinski said.

David Smith (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Mr. Smith said the situation was unplanned and “unfortunate but it’s a reality.”

For the Drinkwater Bridge, Mr. Lipinski said to fund the $8.57 million price tag, the city will pull about $4 million from the General Fund Capital Contingency Budget.

The city will cancel the Street Operations North Storage Facility project. It will also take $2.4 million that was originally earmarked for the CIP project Paving Unpaved Roads in fiscal year 2021-22. Funds will also come from a Y project for sidewalk repair.

Savings from the Mustang Transit Passenger Facility will also help finance the repairs. The final $1.2 million will come from additional available budget appropriation in this fiscal year’s CIP, which are used as “designated and unreserved fund balance,” according to a city staff report to council.

Mr. Smith again shared concerns on whether the contingency funds would be replenished after use. He said the contingency funds are typically used for fire, police and other city services.

City Manager Jim Thompson and Treasurer Jeff Nichols both assured Mr. Smith the funds would be repaid. Mr. Nichols said the city typically replenishes contingency funds the following year.

Mayor Jim Lane commended city staff for finding a way to drop initial estimates on both projects and effectively using contingency funds.

“I think that what we’ve got here is a good display of how management has been able to respond to nearly some emergency situations where they can maintain our structure here and transportation patterns here in downtown,” Mr. Lane said during the meeting.

“So I’m delighted to see what they’ve been able to do and to do it in a way that is, frankly, more efficient and effective than was initially thought that it might be, we might be faced with.”

Councilwoman Virginia Korte said since the money isn’t all coming from contingency funds or other savings, it will have a direct effect on the community’s quality of life with the cancellation of other projects.

“I look at this as a consistent shave of our quality of life,” she said during the meeting. “The decrease of our quality of life in these small little projects that support our quality of life.”

She lobbied for residents to remember this situation if the city needed to bring forth a bond measure or other capital improvement funds, such as the proposed sales tax initiative on the upcoming Nov. 6 ballot.

A view of a piece of Scottsdale Public Art depecting the word “Love” at City Hall on the Drinkwater Bridge. (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Fittro)

Moving forward

The 68th Street Bridge has structural damage along the bottom of the roadway, Mr. Lipinski said. City staff discovered the Drinkwater Bridge to be in failure after an investigation into previous deterioration from water intrusion, resulting in the closure of the edifice.

For the Drinkwater Bridge, staff expects Phase 2 services to begin immediately after construction documents are completed and shop drawings are submitted and approved. This puts construction to begin in early December with an estimated completion date of next fall.

Construction is slated to being in December for the 68th Street Bridge with an estimated completion date of next March. Prior to FNF Construction beginning its work, there will be water line work and dry utility construction work completed outside of the specified contract.

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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