Goodwin Avenue project costs rise

A+student+rides+her+bike+to+class+across+Goodwin+Avenue+in+Urbana+on+Jan.+22.+The+cost+for+the+project+has+risen+to+%242.65+million.+Erica+Magda%0A

A student rides her bike to class across Goodwin Avenue in Urbana on Jan. 22. The cost for the project has risen to $2.65 million. Erica Magda

By Crystal Kang

While the economic crisis is tightening the University’s funds, campus administrators and Urbana officials have agreed to share the remaining cost of the $2.65 million Goodwin Avenue redevelopment project.

The City of Urbana had originally estimated the total cost for this project to be $1.1 million with the Illinois Department of Transportation covering $900,000 of the expenses. The city and the University would be left paying $100,000 each. The city is looking for ways to alleviate the skyrocketing cost of this project.

“Now (the University is) being asked to commit more,” said John Dempsey, the executive director for the University’s Facilities and Services. “Now we have a project that at one point was $1.1 million, went to $1.5 million, and now up to ($2.6 million). It’s shocking. We’re opening bids and finding most of our bids are below the estimate.”

In the midst of meeting a deadline to register for grants, Urbana originally gave a raw figure. After the city hired design and engineering consultants, the cost estimates became more defined.

“When you do a preliminary cost estimate you use more general means for determining the cost,” said Urbana Public Works Director Bill Gray. “When you complete the (design and engineering phase) you have the known quantities for the project.”

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The cost of the project has escalated because of the increasing cost of equipment and material.

The Office of the Provost confirmed in May 2008 that it will contribute no more than $400,000 to the project.

“University funds in the amount of $400,000 will be provided to the project through a commitment from the Provost’s Office,” said Helen Coleman, the director of planning for the University’s Facilities and Services. “This is an increase from a commitment of $300,000 made in 2007, and no additional funds can be provided.”

Since then, Gray said Urbana has had ongoing talks with the University. Based on the amount the University has pledged to the project and the $900,000 covered by the department of transportation, Urbana may try to reduce expenditures.

“We’re looking at ways to control the cost,” said Gray. “What we’re looking at is an agreement on sharing the $1.6 million. In reality, it may be more (money) one way than the other.”

Gray said both the city and University will reap long-term benefits by forming a partnership through this project.

Ward 2 Alderman David Gehrig said this major project is going to help ease the tension between pedestrian and bicycle traffic on Goodwin Avenue. He pointed out that both students and professors use the bike paths.

The corners on Goodwin are tight, making it difficult for buses and trucks to turn without encroaching upon another’s lane. The modifications will make it easier for vehicles to turn. Gray added that new, state-of-the art traffic signals and street lighting will replace the antiquated ones.

“Assuming the prices are attractive, we’ll award contractors the contract,” said Gray. “The project begins in June and will be completed around Thanksgiving.”