TRAVERSE CITY — Plans to loop a trail around the Boardman Lake in Traverse City hit another twist when bids for the first stretch proved unworkable.
City manager Marty Colburn recently told city commissioners that bids came in nearly $1 million above estimates to build the leg of the trail from 14th Street to Northwest Michigan College’s University Center near South Cass Road — the first of two legs to link the existing trail around the lake.
Unofficial bid results show Anlaan Corporation offered to build the stretch and related curbs, gutters, retaining walls and other structures for $2,512,752.50, and Elmer’s Crane and Dozer for $3,588,681.50.
Compare that to an estimate of $1,623,440 for the first leg — city Engineer Tim Lodge said the lowest bid is 154 percent of that. Both bids have been rejected, and project planners will confer to determine what to do next, he said.
It’s disappointing news to Julie Clark, Traverse Area Recreational and Transportation Trails executive director, but she and other project partners aren’t giving up, she said. They’ll go through the bids to determine why they came in so high before they seek more offers to build the first phase. The plan could change as they decide what they can afford to build, or whether to hunt for more funding, she said.
“It’s a bit of a setback for this section of it,” she said. “We had hoped to be under construction later this year on this section.”
TART trails is working with Traverse City, Garfield Township and Grand Traverse County to link an existing path that winds along Boardman Lake. The current trail stretches from 14th Street on the west shore to Medalie Park on the lake’s south end.
The extension would fill in the missing link along the lake’s southwest shore.
A second phase from NMC’s University Center to the county park hasn’t been bid yet, Lodge said — Clark said now is the chance to review this portion to avoid getting more bad news when bidders for that stretch respond.
Lodge said it’s also a chance to consider bidding out both phases at once. Contractors might give more favorable pricing for a larger project, and more might respond to requests for bid, he said — Clark agreed the idea’s worth considering.
Estimates put costs for the second phase at $2,899,842, documents show.
Planners are working to complete the entire extension for $5.5 million, Clark said.
Funding will come from a web of sources, including $800,000 Garfield Township will chip in for a long-term trail maintenance fund, and $420,000 from TART Trails, documents show. Grants from the Michigan Department of Transportation, the state Department of Natural Resources and $3.6 million from a brownfield plan will fill in the rest.
Linking up the current trail is a plan 30 years in the making. TART Trails, city, county and Garfield Township went to work in late 2015 and unveiled plans in November 2017 following a public input process.
Those plans have shifted here and there in response to challenges with steep terrain, and routing the trail along a rail line that Colburn recently told city commissioners is seldom used but considered still active.
Working around those issues caused other delays — planners had to address objections the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy raised over plans in the second phase for a boardwalk over a corner of Boardman Lake, Colburn said.
And Michigan Department of Transportation’s rail division required a retaining wall along the trail that raised project costs, Clark said.
“We’re working with the state agencies who are doing the best they can to work with us to tackle some pretty interesting routing components, if you will,” she said.
A spur to link the path to the corner of Cass and South Airport roads is on hold as planners work with land owners to piece the trail together for an eventual third phase, Clark said.
Colburn said he’s certain there’s a way around the latest issue of high bids for the first phase.
“I’m an optimist, I believe that we’ll find a route to work through these issues,” he said.
Clark shared in that optimism, and said it’s possible construction still could begin before year’s end.
She noted that other projects bid at the same time received high bids as well. Clark suspects high demand for construction work could be at play, she said — Colburn posited the bid’s timing could be a factor in the massive prices given in response.
Delays and obstacles when building trails are unwanted but hardly unprecedented, Clark said.
“Every trail has its hurdles, and our job is to try to figure out how to clear them,” she said.