KINGSPORT — Due to higher than expected bids and with the road in dire need of attention, Kingsport is planning to move forward with the repaving of Cooks Valley Road within the month.
The Model City is separating this roadwork from other planned state-funded projects in town — with permission from the Tennessee Department of Transportation — which will allow it to move forward and not have to go through a second bidding process.
“It can’t wait any longer,” said Ryan McReynolds, public works director for the city.
Last month, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen rejected the bids on two sets of repaving projects funded by TDOT through the Kingsport Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).
The first project is for Lincoln Street (from Wilcox Drive to the bridge at John. B. Dennis Highway) and Cooks Valley Road (from Harbor Springs Drive to the city limits). The second project includes University Boulevard, Lewis Lane and Granby Road — all in the Allandale community.
City engineers had estimated the projects to cost $965,000 and $1.08 million, respectively, but the only bids that came in for the projects were from W-L Construction and Paving at $1.37 million and $1.56 million — a more than 40 percent difference.
McReynolds said the reason why the bids were so high was because the contractor had to front load his bid to take into account the possible rise in asphalt prices.
“They were asked to bid a project and hold a cost for asphalt,” McReynolds said. “We’re planning to structure the bid form to index asphalt so that if it goes up or down, the bid would too. We’re also trying to trend if there’s a preferable time to bid — are we seeing inflated prices in early spring because everyone is going out (to bid)?”
Because these particular resurfacing projects were done through the MPO and with TDOT funds, the work had to follow state guidelines and were much more involved than a typical resurfacing project performed by the city.
In addition, potential bidders have to be a preapproved contractor with the state, and in Kingsport, McReynolds said there are very few of those — Summers-Taylor and W-L. Lyons Construction. Lyons, which did all the federal stimulus-funded repaving for Kingsport back in 2010, is in bankruptcy.
What happens now will be for Kingsport to pull the Cooks Valley Road resurfacing work out of the overall project, and once an asphalt index is determined, go back out to bid on the remaining four resurfacing projects, along with some repaving work in Mount Carmel and Church Hill, later this year.
“Cooks Valley Road is in the worst shape of any road in the city, and we’re supposed to start this week with some of the rebuild portions — undercutting and getting it prepped for paving,” said Michael Thompson, assistant public works director for the city. “That work should be finished later on this month.”
Kingsport budgeted $600,000 for resurfacing projects in the current fiscal year (ending June 30), with $200,000 remaining. McReynolds said he feels comfortable that money will cover the work along Cooks Valley Road.
“We can stretch paving dollars internally much further than when we contract,” McReynolds said.
This is the second time in as many months where Kingsport received high bids for state-funded construction projects in the Model City.
In March, bids for sidewalk and crosswalk improvements at Kennedy and Roosevelt elementary schools came in more than $118,000 over the city’s estimate and nearly $70,000 more than a $187,000 Safe Routes to School grant. Kingsport’s public works department is planning to perform this work.