N4T Investigators: Downtown Links bids millions higher than esti - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Downtown Links bids millions higher than estimated

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There are lingering questions about the final segment of Tucson's Downtown Links project, which has been in the works for several years. The News 4 Tucson Investigators have learned there is a massive gap between the estimated cost, and the bids submitted by contractors to complete the project.

"If they don't do this segment on Links, then the whole project doesn't make any sense. This is the piece that connects Broadway to I-10," Ward 6 Tucson City Council member Steve Kozachik told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. 

When complete, the Downtown Links project will give Tucson drivers a way to bypass downtown, by connecting Aviation Parkway to 6th Street/St. Mary's to I-10. Though, the project could end up being much pricier than expected. 

"The engineer's estimate was about $39-million for this project, and our bids came in roughly $16-million high," said Sam Credio, deputy interim director of the Tucson Department of Transportation. 

In addition to extending Aviation Parkway all the way to Interstate 10, Phase 3 of Downtown Links includes plans for multi-use paths, a deck plaza, plus drainage improvements to help prevent monsoon flooding of the Stone Avenue underpass. The project also includes a new underpass on Sixth Street and Ninth Avenue, which will go underneath the Union Pacific railroad tracks. 

"Right now, that location receives 40 to 50 trains a day, and so every time a train comes through that area, traffic has to stop on Sixth Street. Not only does that become a traffic hindrance, but it also is a potential safety issue," Credio told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. 

City officials also told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, the project's complexity is one reason for the gap between the engineer's $39-million estimate and the high bids. However, that is not the only reason for the discrepancy.

"Because of the work that we're doing all over the city, there's a labor shortage, and so the cost of labor is escalating," Kozachik told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

Now, it's up to city to try to figure out how to resolve the difference - something they insist is possible. Although, they admit, it won't be easy. 

"We're going back, we've got some really smart people in the room, and we're taking a look at the project to see how can we close that gap between the low bid, and the engineer's estimate," Credio told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. 

For his part, Kozachik would like to close that gap by taking a look at other transportation projects in the region, including the expansion of Broadway Boulevard. 

"$71-million worth of taxpayer's money that's not justified by the traffic counts? Let's go look at Broadway, find some value engineering there, pull some of those dollars in and finish the Links," Kozachik told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. 

Bottom line - the city says Downtown Links will be completed. It's not a matter of if, but rather, of how. 

"We are dedicated to this project. It's one of our most important projects in the region, and we're really excited to see this project kick-off," Credio told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. 

For more information about Downtown Links click here. 

If you have something you would like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to investigate email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at (520) 955-4444.

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