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Belmont Bridge replacement cost increases

Charlottesville’s City Council is expecting to appropriate an additional $4.2 million in state funds to replace the Belmont Bridge.

On Monday night, the council held the first of two readings of the appropriation and voted to move it to the following meeting’s consent agenda. The final vote will be held during the June 7 meeting.

The $4.2 million will raise the project budget to $35,380,782.

The council initially signed off on a total allocation of $15.3 million for the project in August — $12.1 million in state funding and $3.2 million in federal money.

The project is further supported by another $14.8 million from the state and another $3.2 million in federal funding.

Jeanette Janiczek, Urban Construction Initiative program manager for the city, said the need for additional funding became clear after initial meetings with bidders interested in working on the project.

“Not only were the material costs just much more expensive, and we do believe that this is related to the pandemic, whether it’s supply chain production or just simply inflation, that we’re seeing an increase in material costs, but we’re also seeing an increase in labor costs, as well,” Janiczek said.

“There is more work than there is skilled labor, resulting in higher costs. So we did a detailed bid analysis, and we have submitted that to [the Virginia Department of Transportation] and they have concurred with our findings that this is indeed a good fit,” she said.

Janiczek said to ensure responsible use of public funds, the program looked at different ways to lower the cost of the project, but found that it would be impossible to lower the cost without making major changes to the project and eliminating some of the planned improvements.

The city’s vision for the Belmont Bridge is to provide a community connection for bikes, pedestrians, buses and cars between the surrounding neighborhoods and the city’s downtown/urban core. The project limits are from the intersection of Avon Street, Ninth Street, Garrett Street and Levy Avenue to the intersection of Ninth Street and East Market Street.

The bridge, which was built in 1961, spans the Buckingham Branch Railroad line and carries about 14,000 vehicle trips a day, according to VDOT estimates.

In 2005, the city entered into an agreement with VDOT to participate in the Urban Construction Initiative’s First Cities program. Through this program, the city is responsible for administering its urban system construction program — design, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation and construction. The Belmont Bridge replacement is one such project being administered under this program.

On Tuesday, the city posted a modified invitation for bids from qualified firms to execute the bridge replacement.

The bid posting states the improvements will consist of reconstruction of Ninth Street between Levy Avenue and East Market, including demolition and replacement of the existing Belmont Bridge carrying Ninth Street over Old Avon Street, the railroad and Water Street.

In addition to the improvements on Ninth Street, the project also consists of reconstruction of South Street, Old Avon Street and a portion of Water Street; construction of an enhanced pedestrian access structure; water, sewer and gas utility relocations; underground duct bank construction within Monticello Road; construction of a new pedestrian tunnel under Ninth Street and extension of an existing pedestrian tunnel under Ninth Street; and traffic signal and Intelligent Transportation System upgrades at the intersection of Ninth Street, Levy Avenue, Garrett Street and Avon Street and the intersection of Ninth and East Market streets.

The work will include bridge demolition, bridge construction, clearing, grading, concrete flat work, asphalt paving, drainage structure, erosion and sediment control, signage, lighting and electrical, traffic signals, pavement markings, sewer line relocation, gas and water line relocation, stormwater management, landscaping, maintenance of traffic and other items necessary for completion of the work.


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