A possible silver lining for taxpayers in the current recession is that public works projects are costing less than originally expected, officials report.
Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Deb Miller said that recent bids for several road projects came in below projections.
For example, she said, the low bid for the U.S. Highway 59 expansion in Franklin County was $7.2 million, or 26.5 percent, less than the program estimate of $27 million. In addition, Kansas will receive $377 million in federal economic stimulus funds for transportation that state officials say will create 10,000 to 12,000 jobs.
Keith Browning, the Douglas County engineer and public works director, said the recession and lower fuel prices could mean bargains are available.
“I think there’s just probably a lower number of projects out there to be bidding on, and so contractors are a little hungrier wanting to get the work,” Browning said.
His department was pleasantly surprised earlier this week when it opened bids for improvements of Douglas County Road 438, a road northwest of Lawrence that’s also known as the Farmers’ Turnpike.
Browning’s $2.7 million prediction for rebuilding the stretch of county road was more than the $1.6 million winning bid from Perry-based N.R. Hamm Construction. All five bidders on the project came in under the estimate.
Meanwhile, Lawrence school district officials also are reporting possible savings.
Work continues on the outdoor athletic fields at both Lawrence high schools, but some plans for restrooms and concession stands have been modified to save the district money.
Instead of erecting free-standing buildings, maintenance facilities at both Lawrence High and Free State High will be changed to serve both purposes.
But facilities and operations director Tom Bracciano says the construction costs at both sites came in under the projected price.
“When we open up these bids, instead of one or two bidders, we’re having seven or eight,” Bracciano said. “(A) lot of people are looking for work to keep things going along.”
Bracciano says their estimates were conservative, but they still came in under budget.
“We saved a couple of million (dollars),” he said. “When the market’s good for us, those (the bids) come in under what the market usually charges.”
Work at both sites is scheduled to be finished in August.
— Lindsey Slater, George Diepenbrock and Scott Rothschild contributed to this report.