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Greenway bridge hits a $350,000 snag

A new 1.2-mile greenway section along the Tuckasegee River in Cullowhee has encountered higher-than-expected costs as it nears completion.

The greenway project called for a major pedestrian bridge across the river at one end. The greenway is on the opposite bank from the parking and access area, so the bridge was the only way to get to the greenway at that end.

The bridge was expected to cost $640,000 but will now cost $1 million.

“We’re kind of at the critical point,” County Manager Chuck Wooten told commissioners at their meeting Monday. “Either we acknowledge that we’ve got some additional construction costs or we stop and look at some alternative designs or don’t even do the project.”

The greenway can still be accessed without the bridge, but only at one end, so greenway users would have to go out-and-back, instead of getting on at one end and off at the other. There’s a duo of culprits responsible for the overrun. The soil type on either side of the river isn’t stable enough to hold the bridge footers and will require stabilization.

Also, the original bridge design interfered with Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority’s access to its sewer lines, requiring “substantial” walls will be constructed on either side of the bridge, the biggest 16 feet high,

Victor Lofquist, the engineer who devised the original estimate, told commissioners there wasn’t “any way to foresee any of these things.” Engineering costs associated with the bridge were $65,000.

Soil will be stabilized with micropiles, which are a lot of thin, strong, steel bars injected into the ground.

Commissioner Doug Cody was skeptical of the price tag and the method — “If we’re going to spend the money on stuff I want to make sure it’s going to work” — but Lofquist assured him the method was industry standard and should yield positive results. 

It’s already been a while since the bridge company submitted its bid, Wooten told commissioners, so the choice would be to either go for it now or withdraw the contract and risk getting a higher rebid for the project. To foot the bill, Wooten suggested taking $350,000 out of the county funds set aside for recreation and conservation projects — namely $250,000 from the Conservation, Preservation and Recreation Fund and $150,000 from Duke Energy Recreation grant money. 

Commissioners went along with the plan. Completion will now be delayed, however.

“We’re looking at January, February,” Wooten said. “We had hoped to be through in the next couple months.”

It will take the bridge company five months to deliver the bridge once the site is prepared and commissioners put the order in, and asphalt can’t be laid when it’s freezing out, so the new expected end date for bridge construction is spring 2015. 


By the numbers

Original greenway total, including bridge: $1.05 million

Original bridge: $640,000

Revised bridge: $1 million

Cost covered by grants: $430,000

Original county dollars: $600,000

Revised county dollars: $950,000

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