Road contract approvedWork won't be done 'til spring.
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:58 PM
"Having lost any opportunity to finish the traffic roundabout before school starts, the city will now delay the start of the project until after school is under way.The start of school is confusing enough, city officials say, and they don't want to make matters worse by having the critical intersection of Madison Avenue and High School Road closed down when school begins.We'll wait at least a week, until the initial franticness has settled down a little bit, public works director Randy Witt said.The city council Wednesday accepted Ace Paving's low bid of $1.513 million for the High School Road improvement project, which will rebuild the street from Madison west to Sportsman Club Road. The only other bid came in $125,000 higher.Under terms of the contract, Ace must begin work on the roundabout between Sept.10 - five days after school resumes - and Oct. 1. Work must be completed in 21 calendar days or less, irrespective of weekends and holidays.The contract offers a $2,500-per-day bonus for finishing the work in less than 21 days, and imposes a $2,000 per day penalty for taking longer, according to City Engineer Jeff Jensen.The controversial roundabout - a traffic circle in which all entering vehicles move in a counterclockwise direction, then turn right onto the desired street - is designed to speed up the flow of traffic through one of the island's busiest intersections, now controlled by a four-way stop.The Bainbridge Island City Council selected the roundabout over a stop light after being presented with data showing that accidents - including vehicle-pedestrian accidents - were both less frequent and less severe at roundabouts than at intersections with a stop light.The decision has been criticized in letters to the editor and in an on-site protest. Other communities that have installed roundabouts have faced similar reactions, Jensen said.Other communities told us that there would be a lot of comments about the first one, but that after that, citizens want roundabouts installed at other intersections, including those where it might not really be appropriate, he said.The balance of the reconstruction work is estimated to take 110 work days, Jensen said, meaning that unlike the roundabout job, weekends and holidays won't count. Because the reconstruction project won't begin until fall, Jensen said it will probably not be finished until spring.At some point, the weather will probably get bad enough that we'll have to button it up for the winter, he said.The intersection at High School and Sportsman will also change as part of the project, becoming a four-way stop, Jensen said. At present, High School is a through street, and Sportsman traffic has a stop sign.Sportsman is a busy street, Jensen said. There have been several accidents at that intersection.The project was originally scheduled to begin early this summer, as school vacation started. But because of various delays - some at the state level - the project wasn't advertised for bids until mid-June, which would have made completion of the roundabout by the opening of school problematic, but still possible.When the city opened bids the first time on July 16, Ace was low bidder at $1.43 million. But the state Department of Transportation, which is furnishing some of the money for the project, deemed all of the bids non-responsive because the bidders failed to include a list of subcontractors, which state law requires.That omission required the city to readvertise the job, delaying the bid opening and contract award to this week. When it became apparent that the roundabout could not be completed before school started, some consideration was given to putting off that part of the project until next spring, when school will again be out.That possibility was rejected, Jensen said, in part for reasons of cost and because it would interfere with projects planned for next summer.We think we would have seen a substantial price increase if we held back, he said, and we have a lot on our plate for next year too.But part of the reason for going ahead was because of the controversial nature of the project, Jensen said.Extending the work leaves a longer period for people to grumble, he said. The council has made the decision, and not going ahead now is going to create more trouble. "