Loop Trolley construction rebids are coming in closer to pre-bid estimates and should allow trolley managers in January to authorize actual construction to begin, according to Christopher C. Poehler, administrator of the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District.
“The numbers are more in line with our estimates than they were the first time,” Poehler said. “They are generally around our estimates.”
Poehler made the statements during a University City Council meeting on Nov. 24. The council considered and ultimately approved a six-month extension to a trolley system conditional use permit which was first issued by the city in March 2013. The permit, which allows for construction activities and initial trolley operations, was to have expired on Dec. 23 and had already been extended four times, city officials said.
“This is almost becoming comical,” Councilman Terry Crow said. “Why should we approve this?”
Poehler said that new bids have been received and are being evaluated. The district, he said, anticipates that it will close on construction financing in December and in January issue notices for construction to begin.
District Chairman Joe Edwards recently said that the trolley would be fully operational in late spring or early summer of 2016. That is a few months later than he forecast in July.
Despite the delays, City Manager Lehman Walker told Crow that he thought it in “the best interests of the city that we proceed with this project.”
Poehler acknowledged that the district had this fall rejected a first-round of construction bids because they totaled $11 million more than the $43 million in construction costs projected. He said the construction elements had been re-packaged before new bids were sought.
In a Nov. 20 letter to the city, Poehler wrote that the district had this summer “commenced construction work on the project in both University City and the city of St. Louis − specifically, the vast majority of the utility relocation work,” and he said most of the work in the University City portion of the planned trolley line “is nearing completion.”
However, resident John A. Rava said the trolley district “has offered up one excuse after another” for project delays and now faces “a huge funding gap” represented by higher-than-projected construction costs. He urged the council to reconsider its support of the trolley.
“This is the opportune time for the council to reassess its support of this project,” Rava said.
Councilwoman Paulette Carr, who joined Crow in voting against the extension, suggested that the council stick with the Dec. 23 permit expiration. She said that doing so would likely provide the district with sufficient time to examine the latest round of construction bids, which she indicated might go a long way toward determining whether the system would be built.
Westend Word ©December 2014