City officials want to reinstate the risk manager on the now-stopped Hemphill-Lamar street connector on the south end of downtown to get a better handle on project costs.
The move is coming at the urging of Michael Morris, transportation director at the North Texas Council of Governments, who contacted Mayor Betsy Price in January, saying his office lost track of the project when it ran into delays during the past decade.
Morris said Monday the Regional Transportation Council, NTCOG’s transportation planning body, had pledged money to the project years ago, but never followed through because the project fell through the cracks. Morris said he briefed the RTC in January on the situation and asked Price for a little time to sort things out.
Morris said he’s confident money can be found to complete the project and that costs will come down.
“It got off of our radar screen. We moved on with our responsibilities,” Morris said. “The lead then fell to the city. We’ve got to jump back in and get the project done. I’m talking to different people to help fund it. The city has spent a lot of money. I think Fort Worth will be interested in moving ahead.”
Work was halted last fall by city staff after learning costs to finish the four-lane street and pedestrian tunnel were $18.3 million higher than initially planned. At that time, McCarthy Building Cos., moved from the site.
The City Council was expected to approve spending $500,000 on consulting engineering reports to look into improving nearby underpasses at Jennings Avenue and Main Street as an alternative to completing the connector. The council, though, never approved the money.
North Texas Council of Governments and Texas Department of Transportation representatives met with city officials Feb.9 to discuss potential funding sources, according a city report.
The council will likely vote March 1 to amend its contract with McCarthy to bring them back on site to investigate why project costs soared, the report said. McCarthy will look closer at soil contamination issues, underground utility relocation costs, as well as other construction costs.
Last projected to cost $26.6 million, the city a few months ago was looking at a $44.9 million price tag.
The connector is a planned four-lane street and a pedestrian tunnel that includes sidewalks and bike lanes connecting Lamar Street at the south end of downtown to Hemphill Street on the near south side, under the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and Interstate 30. About $11.1 million has been spent on the project.
City staff learned last summer about significant price increases from McCarthy. Under a new policy taking effect Oct. 1, the City Council is now making spending decisions on bond program project overruns that were previously done at the staff level.
The Hemphill-Lamar connector dates to 2002, when the highway portion over Lancaster Avenue was moved to the south. Voters approved paying for the connector in the 2004 bond program. The project also received millions of dollars in certificates of obligations the city sold in 2013.
The connector is slated to be completed in the summer of 2017.