Baraboo footbridge bids come in high

April 11, 2019

All four bids for construction of a footbridge over the Baraboo River came in over budget, prompting the Baraboo Parks Commission to head back to the drawing board.

With grant support from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the city and Baraboo Kiwanis Club hope to build a $400,000 pedestrian bridge over the river near Circus World as an extension of the Baraboo Riverwalk. Bids opened last week came in between $540,000 and $790,000. On Monday the Parks Commission voted 7-0 to recommend that the Common Council reject all the bids.

“They’re significantly over budget,” Parks Director Mike Hardy said.

He suggested seeking bids again in the fall, when contractors might offer more affordable rates for winter work. In the meantime, the city could ask the DNR for additional grant support. Michael Plautz, a Common Council member who sits on the Parks Commission, said the council might be willing to contribute $75,000 from its general fund.

The Parks Commission directed Hardy to seek more grant money.

“Let’s get some funds, Mike,” Commission President Roy Franzen said.

The bridge would span the river near Spirit Point, connecting an existing segment of the Riverwalk along Water Street with new segments to be laid across the river in the Maxwell-Potter Conservancy. The low bid of $540,000 came from Sunrise Construction. Hardy said rising prices for steel, and tariffs placed on it, drove up prices.

“It has been very volatile,” he said.

A construction boom also has played a role, as contractors have plenty of work.

“It’s going to be tough to get contractors in,” Hardy said. “Contractors are pretty much naming their price because there’s so much demand.”

He recommended rebidding the project in September or October, with construction taking place over the winter.

“We’d probably save a bit of money on it,” Hardy said.

Commissioner Craig Schlender recommended seeking bids for a lighter-duty bridge, one capable of supporting walkers but not service vehicles, as a cost-saving measure.

Commissioners discussed the suggestion that the city acquire a historic truss bridge being offered for free in Rock County. Hardy said the bridge isn’t long enough, and poses engineering challenges that could delay the project a year.

“I’d like to see it built sooner rather than later,” Plautz said.

The commission voted 7-0 to direct Hardy to pursue additional grant funding. Its recommendation to reject the first round of bridge bids will go to the council.