Rockwell Avenue on fast track

December 9, 2016 GMT

The Fort Atkinson City Council has moved forward with the reconstruction of Rockwell Avenue on the city’s south side next year.

Meeting in regular session Tuesday, the council approved a $139,750 contract with engineering consultant MSA Professional Services Inc. to oversee the design phase.

The total cost of the project, including complete street reconstruction with curb and gutter and replacement of water, sanitary sewer and stormwater mains, is approximately $4.5 million, including design, construction and inspection.

The city has submitted an application for a $1 million state Department of Transportation Economic Assistance grant to assist in paying for the project. Per the application, the city commits to funding at least 50 percent of the project. In May 2015, the council had contracted with the engineering firm of Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. (SEH) to seek the grant.

No official word on the grant’s status was presented at council meeting Tuesday; however, city engineer Andy Selle was eager to move forward hiring the design consultant so the project could be done in 2017 instead of the originally projected timeline of 2020 presented by the DOT.

“Rockwell Avenue has been the number-one street I’ve been asked about time and again, other than maybe Cramer Street,” council member Mason Becker said. “I’m very happy to see this moving forward.”

The council unanimously approved the $139,750 contract with MSA Professional Services, as well as authorized the city manager to spend up to $5,000 between council meetings, if needed.

“This project is an extremely fast-tracked project,” Selle said. “We want to get this built in 2017.”

He said that ideally, bid documents would be ready in the spring, with the intention of breaking ground in June.

“To complete that work in 2017, we put together a request for proposals that were answered by six consultants,” he said, noting that the cost ran from $100,000 to $197,000.

Selle said two of the proposals stood out above the rest: one from MSA Professional Services and one from Batterman Engineering of Beloit.

The city engineer said the strength of the Batterman proposal was the cost, coming in at $121,000 for the design. However, he said the company’s weakness was a lack of stormwater expertise specifically.

“As we all know, the Rockwell Avenue corridor drains well. but it takes a long time to drain,” Selle said. “With two schools there, a well-timed storm could really wreak some havoc on that particular portion of town.”

As a result, he said, stormwater removal is an important part of the overall project.

MSA Professional Services did have the stormwater expertise he was looking for; however, the company’s preliminary cost proposal was on the higher end at $168,000. To give both MSA and Batterman a fair opportunity, each was contacted to discuss the specific areas of concern.

Selle said he sought more stormwater qualifications from Batterman Engineering and a reduction in cost from MSA.

Both companies responded to the requests and Selle ultimately recommended moving forward with MSA Professional Services at a cost of $139,750.

The additional $5,000 was to cover some of the unknowns in the design scope that might arise.

“We know there are several things within that corridor that could jump up and not necessarily surprise us, but have to be dealt with,” the city engineer said.

Among those items are possible contamination from the former gas station at the corner of South Main and Rockwell Avenue. Selle said leaking underground storage tanks that were removed have designated the site contaminated.

“We do need to do some sampling within Rockwell Avenue to see if that contamination has moved to the south,” Selle said.

He said he did not anticipate any contamination delaying the project. The scope of the design phase would be altered to address any such issues.

Also, Selle said the state Department of Transportation is concerned about the intersection of Whitewater and Rockwell avenues.

On Nov,. 1, the council inked an agreement with the state relating to reconstruction of Whitewater Avenue from East Highland Avenue to South Third Street. That project is not slated to move forward until 2023.

However, on Tuesday, Selle said the DOT has concerns about the safety of the intersection of the two streets.

He said the city has agreed to look at those issues as part of the design, but not necessarily build them. It could lead to some additional work associated with the Whitewater Avenue project in the future.

Selle said the DOT simply is asking the city to look into the area, not necessarily suggesting there is a safety issue.

“Options that may present themselves with respect to further study would be a need for more space ... we may map out what property we would need to acquire and what the challenges might be and then stop there,” Selle said. “The Rockwell Avenue portion of things can continue; we would just be giving the DOT a level of assurance that the safety issues of that intersection are going to be dealt with and we’ll have information to support that.”

Lastly, the city engineer said, there is an issue with stormwater drainage.

In seeking bidders, Selle directed proposals to provide an effort to look at solutions for stormwater runoff with an additional scope added once any problems are apparent.

Options include drainage to the south to Larsen lagoon or to the east to the Bark River wetlands.

Selle said the consultants were directed to look at those options, as well as others, and then fold in the final option to the design scope.

“We are under a very tight deadline. Another six or eight inches of snow and this project doesn’t get done in 2017,” the city engineer concluded.