$31 million may no longer be enough to cover Northbank bridge collapse construction

Jacksonville, FL — A budget boost is now being sought to cover “unforeseen” problems that have surfaced during construction in the aftermath of the 2015 collapse of Liberty Street at Coastline Drive.

GALLERY: Liberty Street at Coastline Drive collapses

Twice before, the cost of the work by the contractor at Liberty Street, Coastline Drive, and the adjacent parking deck has gone up, but until now, that’s all still fit under the $31 million budget for the project. Now, with several million dollars in inspection and administrative costs, one $866,000 change order pending, and a fourth change order possible, the City of Jacksonville is considering another $2 million allocation for the project, which they’re calling a contingency. That would bring the overall budget to $33 million.

The $2 million request was made under Mayor Lenny Curry’s proposed Capital Improvement Program, and it will face vetting as part of the overall city budget review process in the coming weeks.

FULL COVERAGE: Tracking your tax dollars in Jacksonville

This process started back in early 2015, when Liberty Street near Coastline Drive- which was built on pilings over the St. Johns River, and are therefore considered bridges- collapsed in to the water. The City of Jacksonville ultimately set aside $31 million for the repair and reconstruction, which includes the parking deck not being rebuilt, and instead there will be open water. That contract was awarded in 2016 for $24.7 million, with the estimated construction completion July 2018.

The contractor's first extension and budget boost was approved in May 2018, when they received an additional $1,026,221.45 to deal with repairing the bulkhead wall, rerouting power lines, and replacing some fixtures like benches and light poles. At that time, they also received an extension on the construction timeline, through February 2019.

The second change order was approved this past March, awarding another $199,551.41 and extending the construction contract through May. This boost involved replacing the Hyatt perimeter fence, relocating an equipment trailer because of its proximity to the work being done to demolish the old Courthouse and implode the old Annex, and an unforeseen subsurface obstruction encountered during construction.

Those two changes brought the contract award to $25,925,772.86, which is still under the overall $31 million project budget. The City of Jacksonville tells WOKV that there are actually a total of $29.3 million in current project costs, though, when including additional construction and inspection services and administrative costs.

That margin is poised to become even smaller, because the City confirms a third change order worth $866,000 is under review and is expected to be executed within the week. While the change order document is not yet considered public record, according to the City, they tell WOKV that it relates to unforeseen conditions on the river bottom, including obstructions in the mud that are complicating the construction work. This change order approval will push the project cost to around $30.2 million, with the new estimated completion March 2020.

In addition, the City confirms it has been notified by the contractor that there have been even more unforeseen issues, although it’s not yet clear if that will require more time and funding.

This is why the City says they’re requesting an additional $2 million for this project, although we’re told that would be a contingency that’s only used if there is a need. Budget documents show that funding would be achieved through borrowing.

“The City of Jacksonville remains committed to this project and will continue to work closely with the contractor to ensure the work is completed in a way that responsibly utilizes taxpayer resources. Unfortunately, we have experienced unforeseen setbacks, but are working to address these challenges to complete the project as quickly and safely as possible,” says a statement from the City.

WOKV will be closely following this project and the other capital investment proposals made as part of the City’s annual budget process.

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