Construction of two sections of Apex Peakway could cost at least twice as much as was projected last summer, town staff said.
Construction of the Peakway’s southwest connector is to begin during the 2016-17 fiscal year, which begins in July.
The least expensive of the of three options for the project is projected to cost $10.1 million, according to a feasibility study presented to the Town Council in early February. Interim Town Manager Drew Havens said that figure includes numerous contingencies and that its real cost might be closer to $9 million. The most expensive option is estimated at $25.6 million.
The second phase, to the southeast, is scheduled for future construction, but its price tag is now expected to be about $8.5 million.
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The project was discussed at length during the town council’s budget retreat Friday, March 4, and raised concerns from council members who wondered why the estimated and projected costs didn’t mesh.
The new projected total of at least $18.6 million exceeds the amount of the $15 million transportation bond Apex residents passed in November. That was designed to raise about $10 million for the completion of both sections and another $5 million for general road improvements.
Both the bond and the current projection are more than the $5 million anticipated cost from 2009 when the project concept was drawn up, Mayor Lance Olive said.
Now, the town will consider using a recently awarded CAMPO grant of $2.5 million and anticipates receiving an identical federal grant in coming months to pay for the Peakway without a tax increase.
“We asked for a bond on a hypothetical, and now the bond won’t even pay for what it was sold as paying for,” Councilman Wesley Moyer said. “How were we so far off? What did we miss?”
Kent Jackson, Apex’s director of engineering services, said cost projections were done in-house by town staff to save on consulting fees, which he estimated would have been between $600,000 and $1 million in this instance. Olive later disputed that figure, saying a mere cost projection generally costs far less.
“We lacked two things coming into this,” Havens said. “One was money, and the other was patience. It was, ‘We’re going to do a bond referendum. Now go.’ ”
Olive said some of the blame rests on rising construction costs, which also have frustrated Morrisville’s attempts to fund renovations of the Morrisville Aquatic and Fitness Center.
Apex’s agreement with CSX, whose trains run through Apex, required the town to build a costly grade separation at the intersection of the Peakway’s projected path, Salem Street and the adjacent rail line. Grade separations divert traffic either over or under a rail line. Olive said a simple overpass, the cheapest option, was most likely, though a choice won’t be made for certain until an environmental evaluation is complete.
Havens, who has served as town manager since December, said initial estimates were based on the price of an earlier section that included a bridge and that the town attempted to take escalated construction costs into account.
Olive said he hoped the town would learn to value investments of time and money when making these kinds of estimations.
“If there’s a recommendation that we spend $20,000 to get a better estimate, let’s make that case rather than picking a number that now seems to be off by half,” he said.
Gargan: 919-460-1604; @hgargan