City reps: Engineering estimate too high on pedestrian bridge

COVINGTON — After the engineering firm ranked the most qualified to work on Covington’s pedestrian bridge submitted a cost of about four times initial estimates, the City Council has selected the second-highest ranked firm.

Atkins North America Inc. of Atlanta was deemed the most qualified of eight firms by a selection team, but officials weren’t happy with their price of $571,000, roughly 52 percent of the total project cost.

Typically, engineering costs should be between 10 and 12 percent of the project, said Financial Coordinator Randy Conner. Atkins reduced its charge by $50,000, but that was still too far off budget, Conner said.

Because of state and federal monies involved in the project, the city is required to follow the state’s requirement to issue a Request for Qualifications and then negotiate a fee with the most qualified responder. Due to Atkins’ high price, the Georgia Department of Transportation allowed city officials to negotiate with the second-ranked firm, URS Corporation of Atlanta, to obtain a greatly reduced cost of $194,500. Although that’s a little more than 14 percent of the total project cost, Conner said it’s within the engineering budget.

The total current cost estimate is $1,368,600, though Conner said that may be a little high. A final estimate will be established by the engineers, who will also handle the conceptual design, surveying, environmental clearance and construction management.

The city has obtained a $594,000 Last Mile Grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission and $500,000 in Transportation Enhancement program money from the Georgia Department of Transportation. Both require a 20 percent match.

The city’s portion will be approximately $225,000, but officials hope private funding can be obtained to reduce that. Representatives with Oxford College of Emory University have expressed interest in the project, but won’t commit to funding until solid numbers are obtained, Conner has said.

The city of Oxford is also participating in the project, committing $50,760 to construction of a sidewalk extending from the bridge to Oxford City Hall. Oxford officials will decide on what side of the road to install the sidewalk after consulting with engineers, Conner said.

The bridge will span I-20 and will run parallel to the existing Ga. Highway 81 overpass. At 16 feet wide, 10 feet would be usable for pedestrian traffic.

The bridge would provide a safe way for Oxford College students and residents of North Covington and Oxford to walk or bike to the U.S. Highway 278 and downtown shopping districts, Conner has said.