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Bremerton's Pacific Avenue project to finish early, cost more

Pacific Avenue construction work continued this week in downtown Bremerton. - Kevan Moore/staff photo
Pacific Avenue construction work continued this week in downtown Bremerton.
— image credit: Kevan Moore/staff photo

The Pacific Avenue Project, between Sixth and 11th streets, will be done a little sooner than expected, but it will also cost a lot more than was originally anticipated.

The original contract amount for the work was $3,131,378 while the latest cost projection for the project comes in at $4.1 million.

The Bremerton City Council has already approved $174,834.43 in change-work orders. Last week, they were asked to sign off on another $538,000 worth of changes.

In addition, if the lead contractor on the project, RV Associates, is able to substantially complete construction by April 18, more than a month ahead of schedule, the firm will earn an $18,000 bonus to cover its overtime costs.

Bremerton engineer Tom Knuckey told the city council in a study session last week that most of the added cost on the project is a direct result of poor soils. He said that testing the soils ahead of time would have required closing the roadway, doing core sampling and creating big potholes. Knuckey said that process is often expensive and he described it as a “gut call” for engineers.

Councilwoman Leslie Daugs seemed less than impressed, though, with the cost overruns.

“I have a hard time with these projects because we put these bids out and then we get these little change orders due to something we didn’t do, whether it be a plan to test the soil or not,” she said. “And I have a hard time spending money on gut feelings. It’s a big chunk of money that we’re spending. We’re supposed to be representing our citizens and every time we have a big project it seems like we’re adding money to it. I just wanted to say I have a hard time with this. It’s not a good gut feeling for me.”

Bremerton Public Works Director Chal Martin responded by praising the success of the project.

“In the case of this project, truly, this is a success story,” Martin said. “It truly is a success story. We’ve got this wonderful new street that’s almost done and the cost overruns, in my view, are not a significant issue for a project of this size and complexity.”

Martin also noted that the city nearly lost grant funding for the project just after receiving a bid for the work.

“Our mayor recovered this project, literally from the ashes, so we sit here today almost done,” Martin said. “We almost had nothing. So, the other thing I’d like to say is, this often happens with these projects.”

Martin also noted that Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements, put in place to keep track of federal spending, aren’t always in sync with city processes.

“Unfortunately the DOT contracts don’t meet most of these internal processes for change orders. So, although we’re asking for significant change order authority for the mayor, that doesn’t really represent the cost overruns. The cost overruns are mainly because of the poor soils.”

As for the early completion of the project, Knuckey noted the wonderful weather Bremerton has experienced this winter as the main factor.

In addition to being positive about the project as a whole, Martin was also pleased by the prospect of finishing the work early.

“This is Bremerton, we scramble to get something done and complete but overall this is a great story on this project,” he said. “Our staff and our consultant put this thing together. It was always a struggle. We knew that going in and we had this opportunity to get this project done early which is also, in my view, a great thing so we can move on to the next thing for the city.”

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