Talent project on fast track after lower-than-expected bids

TALENT — Upgrades to Talent Avenue from Rogue River Parkway to Creel Road could begin in June in a project that will cost less than engineering estimates.

D. Britton Enterprises Inc. of Grants Pass submitted the low bid of $645,000 and was awarded the contract Friday. The project includes repaving 1,875 feet of roadway, new storm drains, curbs and gutters on both sides, and a sidewalk on the west side. Britton replaced a water line along Talent Avenue last fall.

"The bids were ... much less than what the engineer had estimated," said City Manager Betty Wheeler.

The Oregon Department of Transportation handles financial aspects of the project because federal highway enhancement grant money was awarded to the city to pay for much of it, said Gary Leaming, ODOT spokesperson.

"The engineer's estimate is exempt from public records law. It's privileged information," said Leaming. "As a general rule, what we are seeing are (bids below estimates). There's a lot of hungry people out there. A couple of years ago we were blowing through engineering estimates."

ODOT received six bids. A year and a half ago it would have expected one or two bids, Leaming said. LTM Inc. was the second lowest bidder at $674,877. CPM Development Corp. submitted the high bid of $769,769. The state is required to accept the lowest bid.

City officials had previously estimated their share of the project cost at $167,000. Because the bids came in lower, the city share is now projected to be $118,850.

The project links to earlier upgrades on Talent Avenue from downtown to the parkway. Wheeler said similar projects have taken at least six months to complete. Because the project won't start until June or July, paving may not take place until warmer weather next spring.

All parking along Talent Avenue will be eliminated to provide space for bike lanes. The street has only a few isolated sections of sidewalk, curbs and gutters.

"I'll be glad to see it upgraded," said Ray Martin, who lives in the 1000 block and has a wide driveway that can accommodate several vehicles. "It won't affect me a whole lot."

However, another property owner has concerns about the project's impact.

"It is kind of hard to think of where people are going to park," said Elan Gordon. The 1300 block resident has just a single car driveway for parking. She has previously asked the city to consider a second access to her lot before construction begins.

WH Pacific engineering of Portland designed the improvements. A citizens street design committee provided input on the design. A public hearing was also held on the project.

"Creel Road kind of defines where a lot of the housing is in Talent," said Wheeler. "We have sidewalks and bike lanes on Creel, so people can come to Talent Avenue and then bike and walk to downtown."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.

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