Bids on Falmouth Route 100 project come in over budget

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FALMOUTH — Bids on the Route 100 reconstruction project received recently  “substantially exceed” the amount initially budgeted two years ago, according to Public Works Director Jay Reynolds.

Reynolds submitted a memo to Town Manager Nathan Poore last week in which he outlined the steps he plans to take to address the problem. They include “whether any project or funding modifications are necessary,” he said.

Voters approved spending up to $10.5 million in June 2016 to rebuild Route 100 from Leighton Road to Libby Bridge. The project also includes adding sidewalks, bicycle lanes, street lighting and dedicated turning lanes at several intersections.

Because Route 100, or Gray Road, is state-owned, the Maine Department of Transportation agreed to contribute $4 million to the project, while Falmouth put together the remaining funds needed for the roadway improvements.

That funding mechanism included borrowing $6 million through a bond and allocating money from the West Falmouth Crossing Tax Increment Financing District.

But in his Nov. 21 memo to Poore, Reynolds said the costs of construction alone would eat up all of the money, or more, that had been estimated for the entire reconstruction project from start to finish.

He said Shaw Brothers Construction in Gorham submitted a construction bid of nearly $10.3 million, while Sargent Corp. of Old Town submitted a bid of nearly $11 million.

This week Reynolds said a tight construction market, as well as the limited number of contractors capable of doing the roadwork, contributed to the cost overrun. In addition, he said MDOT included the cost of replacing the Libby Bridge within the bid packet, which caused the price to skyrocket.

Reynolds said what’s needed first is a thorough review and understanding of who is paying for what in the project. It could turn out, he said, that Falmouth’s portion of the cost does not exceed what the town has already set aside.

In other words, there are many unanswered questions. 

“We remain committed to carrying through with this important project,” Reynolds said, and over the “next couple weeks town staff will evaluate which portion of the bid is associated with projects being paid for by MDOT and the Portland Water District.”

The reconstruction of Route 100 has already been delayed, with the original timeline anticipating that construction would be wrapping up by now.

Last summer, Theo Holtwijk, Falmouth’s director of long-range planning and economic development, said the primary reason for the delay was acquiring necessary rights of way, which included a small number of land takings and temporary construction easements.

In all, he told the council, more than 90 properties in the construction zone required an appraisal, adding that obtaining the rights of way was “a formal and lengthy process that’s proven to be extremely complex.”

In analyzing why the town only got two bids on the road project, both of which were higher than anticipated, Reynolds said,”construction prices have been rising at a rapid rate over the last two to three years.”Also, with a project of this size, there are only a limited amount of contractors large enough to perform (them). Therefore, you lose a lot of the competitive bidding (and get) limited bidders.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

The long-delayed Route 100 reconstruction project in Falmouth is now facing cost overruns.

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