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Plans for Moorhead railroad underpass stall after bids come in $7 million over budget

Railroad signal lights and traffic lights make for a visually busy intersection at Main Avenue Southeast and 20th/21st Street in Moorhead. The underpass will separate the streets and tracks to improve traffic flow. Forum file photo

MOORHEAD — Construction bids for the long-sought railroad underpass near Moorhead High School and Minnesota State University Moorhead came in $7 million higher than the city anticipated, raising the total cost of the project to about $65 million.

The city has been trying to install a railroad underpass at the busy intersection of Main Avenue Southeast and 20th/21st Street South for the past 15 years. But it wasn't until last year that state lawmakers allocated $42.2 million toward the project.

Last fall, the total cost of the project was $53 million. That later climbed to $58 million with increased railroad work, property acquisitions and construction costs.

BNSF Railway is contributing $5.74 million, and local funding amounts to $10 million, according to city documents.

City Manager Chris Volkers said construction bids came in Wednesday, April 25, nearly 20 percent higher than budgeted for. She said staff are now regrouping to look at funding options to figure out where the extra $7 million is going to come from.

A special council meeting scheduled for Thursday, April 26, regarding funding for the project was cancelled as well as plans to award bids Monday, May 7. Instead, the council will hold a special meeting May 7 to talk about the next steps in moving forward with the underpass.

Though construction was to begin in early June, everything is on hold now, Volkers said.

City Engineer Bob Zimmerman said the city is still working to finalize the terms of an agreement with railroad officials necessary for construction.

Between now and May 7, Zimmerman said staff could make modifications to the project and negotiate a reduced price or identify other sources of funding. Staff could also revise plans and later this year rebid the project, he said.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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