Eastpointe City Council votes 3-2 to put Nine Mile Road project on hold

By: Brian Wells | Roseville-Eastpointe Eastsider | Published December 18, 2023

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EASTPOINTE — While some Eastpointe City Council members voted to accept bids gathered by the Michigan Department of Transportation for the second phase of the Nine Mile Road renovation project, the council ultimately decided to put the project on hold at its Dec. 5 meeting.

Phase one of the project began last year and included the stretch of Nine Mile Road between Beechwood and Gratiot avenues. The second phase covers the stretch between Gratiot and Tuscany avenues.

According to Eastpointe City Manager Mariah Walton, MDOT gathered bids for the project that were 27%, or almost $220,000, over the estimated cost for the construction. Ryan Kern, a senior project engineer from Anderson, Eckstein and Westrick Inc., the city’s engineering firm, said the increase was due to an increase in the prices of concrete.

“The concrete items are more than 20% higher than the bids from the first phase of Nine Mile, along with other projects that we’ve recently (done),” he said.

In previous projects, the price of concrete had ranged anywhere from $44 to $47 per square yard, he said. However, in bids for the current phase, the low bid was $56 per square yard, while others were above $60 per square yard.

Kern added that even though the bid is higher, 81.85% of the project would still be federally funded through Federal Surface Transportation Funds. The amount the city would need to fund would see an increase of $220,000, he said.

Funding for the project initially had been secured in September. From that point, the city had one year to begin construction on the project before it would lose funding, Kern said. If City Council voted to reject the bids, they would have to present a redesign of the project and gather bids again, which the city doesn’t have much time to do, he said.

“By the time we go through and redesign, go through the bid process again, get through contracts, and if you were to reject, we would have to have any changes that would need to be made,” he said. “We’d have to do them pretty quickly in order to stay within the timeline and not lose federal funding.”

Due to an increase of more than 10% in bids from the original estimated cost, MDOT presented the new bids to City Council. MDOT reportedly gave City Council less than 24 hours to make any decisions regarding the bids, which caused frustration among several members of the council. Kern said that tight deadlines from MDOT seemed to be “typical procedure.”

Klinefelt said he would have liked to see a different design before having to vote on bids.

“I think we should have done something significantly different with the design of Nine Mile,” he said. “I think repaving it exactly the same way, I don’t like it.”

Councilman Cardi DeMonaco said he was in favor of redesigning the project to reduce the number of lanes on Nine Mile from five to three and adding other features along the road, such as green space.

“I’m just hoping we can just do something on this project that’s not just remove the concrete and put it back,” he said.

DeMonaco said that there might be other qualified companies that could do the project who didn’t submit a bid who might submit one in the future.

Klinefelt, DeMonaco and Councilwoman Margaret Podsiadlik ultimately voted against accepting the bids, while Councilmen Harvey Curley and Rob Baker voted to accept them and move forward with the project. Curley and Baker expressed concern over prices continuing to rise if the process were delayed.

“Why would we think that the price of concrete is going to go down just because we rebid the thing,” Curley said. “It’s going to be the same thing, if not more, so I don’t see why we should delay this, and I don’t see why we just don’t approve it tonight and let’s move on with the project.”

Baker added that the road is in dire need of repair, and any delays will be detrimental and could lead to more car problems for people who drive the road frequently.

“It doesn’t sound as if time is on our side with this,” he said.

Before moving on with the meeting, Klinefelt said he wanted the council to discuss setting up a special meeting to look into the project further. He said the discussion about setting a special meeting is expected to happen at the Dec. 19 City Council meeting.