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High bid could delay Ashland street work

ASHLAND ' A lone bid for major street work came in nearly &

36;1 million over city estimates. The City Council will consider how to close the gap at today's meeting.

A lack of competition attributable to an overabundance of highway work has driven up prices, says Ashland Mayor Alan DeBoer.

We are putting so much money into highway work in the state that we are burying the companies, said DeBoer. The prices are a reflection of a lack of competitive business. I was disappointed but not surprised we had only one bid.

LTM Inc. bid &

36;5,275,973 for the project that includes a rebuilding of Siskiyou Boulevard, repaving of Ashland Street and reconstructing the intersection at Siskiyou, Main Street and Lithia Way. The bid was opened July 30. The city had estimated &

36;4,335,000 for the work. An engineer's cost estimate received one day before the bid opening was &

36;4,902,529.

More money could be sought from the Oregon Department of Transportation. City officials and LTM have already begun to examine cuts in costs.

I saw some light in terms of the end of the tunnel after we talked with them, said City Administrator Greg Scoles. A matter of a few inches in terms of (pavement) depth can have considerable savings.

Plans to remove an old concrete road base to allow for more landscaping drove up costs. The concrete would be hauled to White City for disposal.

We need to check with the landscape people to see where it's possible to leave it, said Public Works Director Paula Brown. Or we need to find a place to dump it locally.

Other possible savings include paint rather than plastic tape to mark crosswalks, different pedestrian lighting, planting younger shrubs and delaying a gateway to downtown where Siskiyou meets Main and Lithia.

Jurisdiction over Siskiyou has been transferred to the city from ODOT. The city is negotiating similar agreements for Ashland Street and the intersection. Negotiations could bring more funding from ODOT. The city may even ask for more money for Siskiyou.

It's been a long time since the deal was struck and the cost may have been underestimated, so there may be some opportunities with ODOT, said Scoles.

Work on Ashland Street needs to be finished by April 30, 2003, to receive &

36;450,000 in state funds. LTM will repave the street this year to meet the deadline.

Paving of Siskiyou is scheduled next year. Work this year will narrow the center median to allow bike lanes.

ODOT has committed &

36;2,975,000 for the projects. The city has &

36;1,072,000 available. An additional &

36;240,000 for bus shelters will come from Rogue Valley Transit District through a federal program.

I'm not too sure we should be reaching into the taxpayers' dollars to come up with an extra &

36;900,000, said DeBoer. I think we always have the option to just pave, or just not do the project for a couple years.

The City Council approved final designs for the projects April 16. A public process to redesign the boulevard lasted more than a year.

We want to make sure we deliver a project that's expected, said Brown.

Reach Ashland bureau reporter Tony Boom at 482-4651, or e-mail