Pasco OKs contract for Road 68 improvements

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 3, 2014 

Road 68 Interchange Pasco

Traffic on the Road 68 interchange in west Pasco.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

The Pasco City Council voted Monday to award the contract for the second phase of improvements in the Road 68 area in the northwestern part of the city.

Sierra Electric of Pasco, the only company to bid, will be paid $1.2 million for the job. The company regularly works with Pasco on traffic signals, city public works director Ahmad Qayoumi said.

"Even though we had one bidder, we had a pretty good favorable bid," he said.

The council had rejected bids on the project last summer, after the lower of two bids came in at more than $400,000 over the engineer's estimate. The city then went back and reviewed feedback from potential bidders and made changes to the project to reduce contractor and city risks, Qayoumi said.

Aztech Electric Inc. of Spokane Valley made the lowest bid of $1.5 million after the city initially requested proposals in August. That was higher than the engineer's estimate at the time of $1.09 million. The city had since revised the engineer's estimate to $1.39 million.

Qayoumi said the increase in the estimate was caused by revisions to the software that will be used in the new traffic signal system and other changes, but that the basic project remains the same.

Road 68 is already Pasco's busiest street, seeing 50,000 cars per day. That is expected to increase to 65,000 in the coming years.

The city plans to put in modern coordinated traffic signals to help emergency vehicles, Qayoumi said. The contractor will then begin work on putting in new raised medians with left turn lanes along a 3,000-foot-long stretch of Road 68, as well as 3,000 feet of Burden Boulevard.

Work should start on the Road 68 project in March and wrap up by mid-to-late summer, Qayoumi said.

Council members can expect some angry phone calls from residents and business owners once work starts, City Manager Gary Crutchfield warned.

"It's going to be problematic for a while," he said.

Councilman Saul Martinez asked if the city had considered doing construction at night. Qayoumi responded that doing that would add costs and could cause safety risks for construction workers.

The issues caused by the construction will ultimately be worth it, Mayor Matt Watkins said.

"It's going to improve things and we'll be able to see a net benefit," he said.

More improvements are planned on Road 68 once this phase is finished. Crutchfield said the city wants to build a dual right turn lane from Road 68 southbound onto Interstate 182, but is still waiting for approval from the state transportation department, which is administering grants that are helping pay for the improvements. That is expected to be at least a year away.

The city has scheduled a public meeting on the Road 68 improvements from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday in the council chambers at city hall, 525 N. Third Ave. City staff plan a presentation on the improvements and construction schedule and a question and answer session. It will also address possible lane closures and detours and changes in access to businesses. Property and business owners in the corridor are encouraged to attend.

Also Monday:

- The council agreed with Crutchfield's idea to hire a consultant to help it look for his replacement as city manager. Crutchfield, who is retiring in June after 30 years leading the city's operations, plans to bring forward possible consultants to hire by the council's Feb. 24 meeting.

"I think you should get somebody from the Northwest, who has a better feel for the potential candidates," he told council.

Crutchfield told the Herald that he wasn't sure how much a consultant would cost, since Pasco hasn't hired a city manager for so long. Typically, the human resources department will find candidates and make recommendations to Crutchfield when hiring a city staff member.

- The council approved two water extension agreements. One extends city water lines to the Oregon Potato Company in the Commercial Avenue Loop off Pasco-Kahlotus Highway. That will cost the city up to $83,744 from its water utility fund.

Another extension brings city water to the Canter Club Estates development along Road 64, north of Court Street in the unincorporated "doughnut hole," west of the city. It will cost $78,638.

- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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