Construction crews working on the new Butterfield Boulevard southern extension were busy Wednesday preparing the reinforcement for a slab of concrete to be poured on top of the bridge that will carry motorists over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks when the project is complete later this month.
The road project is about 90 percent complete, and after a series delays and disputes related to construction change orders, additional unanticipated work and the weather, City staff thinks the road will be open by March 31.
The 4,000-foot project will extend Butterfield Boulevard from its current terminus at Tennant Avenue in a southwesterly direction to Monterey and Watsonville roads. Butterfield Boulevard was built with RDA bond proceeds, and currently serves as a north-south bypass around the east side of Morgan Hill. It currently extends from Cochrane Road to Tennant Avenue.
City staff and the contractor have described the southern extension of the project as complicated, due to the need to build a bridge over the railroad tracks, and a large drainage field.
The project is funded by former Morgan Hill Redevelopment Agency revenues, and the City Council approved a $14.2 million construction contract with Livermore-based RGW Construction in April 2011.
Despite additional costs, and the City having to revise the scope of work for the project since construction started in December 2011, the project remains within the budget, according to City staff.
Twelve change orders have totaled about $291,000, and material overruns have added up to about $146,000, according to City staff.
Work remaining to complete on the new road includes paving, re-opening nearby Railroad Avenue, activating a new traffic signal at the Monterey Road intersection where Butterfield Boulevard will meet Watsonville Road, installing street light poles, and installing barriers, fencing, irrigation and landscaping, according to City staff.
Looking east from Monterey Road where the new expanse of Butterfield will connect with Watsonville Road, the road looks ready to form an imposing presence, with the bridge over the railroad tracks dominating the immediate landscape.
The project was on the schedule of redevelopment projects to be funded with the City’s acquisition of more than $100 million in bond proceeds in 2008.
Some of those proceeds remain unspent, but out of the City’s control as the state closed the RDA Feb. 1, 2012. The funds are now controlled by the Department of Finance, and the portion proposed in recent months to be spent on the remainder of the project has been closely examined by the Morgan Hill Redevelopment Oversight Board which is tasked with closing out the agency’s outstanding affairs.
The Oversight Board, comprised of seven members representing different taxing agencies in Morgan Hill, continues to dispute the use of bond proceeds for some of the unanticipated project costs, but these disputes are unlikely to delay the project or affect its outcome, according to Morgan Hill Project Manager Julie Behzad.
Specifically, at last Wednesday’s Oversight Board meeting, the board voted 5-2 to reject about $1.2 million for property acquisitions for the right-of-way for the project. Now the expense goes to the California Department of Finance for review and approval.
The City has already used the bond proceeds to pay these costs, and if the state rejects them, in the worst-case scenario the City would have to find some other way to reimburse the bond proceeds, according to City staff.
Staff from the state DOF have told City staff that the costs for the property acquisition could be eligible for bond funding if a state review of the former RDA’s assets grants a “certificate of completion,” according to City Manager Steve Rymer.
In the end, City staff think the state will approve the expenses, but the RDA wind-down process lags behind the Butterfield Boulevard construction process.
In December, the Council approved extra costs for unanticipated consultant work related to drainage, soil importation, utility conflicts and other costs, according to City staff. The work was performed by consultants Mark Thomas and Co., based in San Jose, and CSG Engineering, based in San Mateo. The addition of those costs bumps the total contracts for the consultants to about $2.1 million for Mark Thomas, and about $180,000 for CSG.