City Council awards bid for roundabout project in Camas

After receiving four bids for the Northwest Sixth Avenue roundabout project that significantly exceeded the engineer’s estimate, the Camas City Council voted to award the contract to McDonald Excavating, Inc., of Washougal.

The $2.037 million contract includes construction of a one-lane roundabout at Northwest Sixth Avenue and Norwood Street, along with two additives that included asphalt drive lanes (instead of concrete), as well as an optional package that consisted of decorative street light poles, a sidewalk to Forest Home Park at Logan Street, and the relocation of currently existing banner poles.

The original engineer’s estimate for the base bid with the two additives was $1.761 million.

According to Public Works Director Steve Wall, contractors in the area are not currently lacking for work. It’s a situation that is creating a challenging bidding climate.

“The market conditions are still pretty hot, which has had an impact on bidding of projects,” he said during the April 4 City Council meeting. “We actually had a contractor that let us know they were not going to submit a bid just because of how busy they are. That is a sign of the conditions, certainly.”

Wall indicated that the staff’s recommendation for the project included street light illumination and the sidewalks, for their aesthetic value and safety features.

“As you think about that corridor, it would be a nice entrance to the city; it would finish things off, get you to the park,” he said. “Then, as we move forward into the future we could focus on the rest of the corridor, but at least it would be a pretty good start.”

Including the two additives would require tapping into the project’s contingency fund to the tune of approximately $55,000. This means the financial cushion would drop from 10 percent ($194,382), to 7 percent.

“Staff feels pretty good about that,” Wall said. “There is not a lot of underground work with this project. A lot of times that is where the costs can add up on you — the unknowns. We are actually raising the intersection up so we won’t have a lot of underground work on this one. Hopefully that’s a benefit, but there’s a slight risk there that we are reducing our contingency moving into construction.”

City Councilman Don Chaney cited concerns about not allowing for a “margin of error,” through an adequate contingency fund.

“As we have seen in our history, almost every project seems to go into the contingency almost in the full amount, and then they have to come back to us for some more money,” he said. “I am still nervous, because then we are going to have to go out and find some more money.”

He suggested a better option might be to tackle the project incrementally.

Councilwoman Shannon Turk, sitting as mayor pro-tem in Mayor Scott Higgins’ absence, said she was in favor of the additions, despite having to tap into the contingency.

“I think it would be better to be up to the 10 percent,” she explained. “But in order to get the sidewalks and additional lighting I am OK going down [to 7 percent]. I think it makes sense to do it at the same time, instead of tearing it up, doing what we need to do, then coming back incrementally and doing more.”

Ultimately, Chaney, Turk, Greg Anderson, and Bonnie Carter voted in favor of awarding the contract to McDonald Excavating, while Steve Hogan voted against.

The site is a major thoroughfare where traffic enters and exits Highway 14 to the west and east. Sixth Avenue takes travelers who have exited Highway 14 east past landmarks including Forest Home Park and the paper mill, and into the historic downtown shopping district.

Currently, no traffic control devices exist at the major four-way intersection.

When discussions about improvements to the intersection first surfaced in early 2015, City Council initially considered a traffic signal for the site, at a cost of approximately $530,000. However, after discussion and input from Washington State Department of Transportation officials and the public its members eventually supported the roundabout concept and design.

During the recent City Council meeting, Hogan questioned the costs associated with the project.

“It’s quite a bit different than the $500,000 alternative we had, and it’s grown consistently as we’ve moved forward,” he said.

Funding for the roundabout project, in addition to other Sixth Avenue corridor improvements, is being gleaned from limited tax general obligation bonds, approved by the City Council in 2014.

Once construction begins, the project is expected to take six to seven months to complete.