Shoreview moving toward largest street project to date

Shoreview has accepted a bid for reconstruction of North Owasso Boulevard and its utility lines, moving the city one step closer to its largest road reconstruction project to date. Set to break ground this spring, the city will also be installing new stormwater collection and treatment infrastructure to combat water quality concerns in nearby lakes. (Bridget Kranz)

Reconstruction will take place on North Owasso Boulevard from Soo Street to Victoria Street, and is planned to start next spring and be mostly complete by October 2020. (courtesy of City of Shoreview)

The Shoreview City Council on Sept. 3 approved Forest Lake Contracting’s low bid of $6.8 million for the North Owasso Boulevard reconstruction project, moving the city one step closer to breaking ground on the roadway next spring. 

In addition to reconstructing the road between Soo and Victoria streets, the project will repave the trail running along the boulevard’s north side, replace the city water line and rehabilitate its sanitary sewer line. The city will also install stormwater collection and treatment infrastructure along the length of the project in an attempt to help improve water quality in adjacent lakes Owasso and Wabasso.

“In scale, in dollar amount, in complexity, this is the biggest street project we’ve ever undertaken here at City Hall on a city roadway,” Public Works Director Mark Maloney noted at the Sept. 3 meeting.

Since the city inherited the roadway from the county in the 1990s, Maloney said very little investment has been put into Owasso. The pavement, water and sewer lines are all original to the hand-off, and the materials for the latter two have become outdated with respect to contemporary construction.

“It’s an older part of our water system. [The line] is cast iron pipe; it’s brittle and we’ve had a number of water main breaks in that area,” Maloney said at a Feb. 4 public hearing on the project. He added that the clay sewer line is also cracking.

After spending more than two years planning the project, the city opened the bidding process in August. While the city’s engineering and planning consultant, SEH, put the initial estimate for the project at $5.8 million, the five bids received by the city ended up averaging more than $7 million.

Maloney attributed this to recent labor shortages in the construction industry, noting that SEH’s estimate had been calculated fairly early on in the planning process.

“The bids reflect a sharp, recent increase in subcontractor and materials pricing. These increased costs are spread throughout a number of bid items,” Maloney told the council. “The construction industry right now has a historic low amount of unemployment. Flipped the other way, all contractors are trying to find people to hire.”


Moving targets

As the project is set to break ground next spring, Maloney added that uncertainty about future labor costs was also built into pricing. Throughout the next year, he said the city will work with SEH and Forest Lake Contracting to hopefully reduce costs.

Although the increase in pricing was fairly spread throughout the bid items, the sanitary sewer rehabilitation came in notably higher than expected. Maloney said the city could explore alternative construction methods that may lessen spending. 

“We didn’t think that it would be cheaper somehow if we bid it again, because history doesn’t really show that,” Maloney said in an interview. “Municipal State Aid is picking up a large chunk of that difference, but the other city funds are, too.”

Shoreview is funding $5.7 million of the project through Municipal State Aid, which is the city’s portion of the state gas tax. In total, Maloney estimated the reconstruction will cost $8 million, with the higher figure incorporating the contractor’s construction costs, as well as allowances for additional engineering, administration, legal costs and other contingencies.

An additional $1.8 million will come from Shoreview’s sewer and water funds. The rest will be covered by Ramsey County, whose park will be sharing some of the new infrastructure, as well as special assessments levied on adjacent properties. Although the final bids came in higher than expected, the assessments will not change since they were shared at the February hearing.

The maximum assessment on a property not needing a new water or sewer hookup will be $2,720 per lot. With new water and sewer line connections, that number could get as high as $7,420. Assessments will not be made until after the project is complete, and residents will have between 10 and 15 years to pay them off in full.

With private utility work currently being done along North Owasso Boulevard, city construction is slated to begin next spring and likely finish up in October 2020.


— Bridget Kranz

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