Jasper County officials not only found a satisfactory bidder for the Highway F-48 West resurfacing project, it also came in about $1 million under budget.
Which came as a surprise to board of supervisors chairman Brandon Talsma, but he feels it was about time. It seemed like several projects were above estimates for the past few years, so to have one come below estimate — particularly the much-needed resurfacing of a main secondary road — was a relief.
“We’re happy,” Talsma said in a follow-up interview with Newton News. When it came time to review the bids during the Aug. 22 supervisors meeting, Talsma jokingly asked county engineer Michael Frietsch if the contractor that submitted the low bid had changed its mind about the price.
To pay for the project, the county is utilizing a combination of local, state and federal funding sources, including farm-to-market funds and state safety grants, which required Jasper County to bid the project through the Iowa Department of Transportation. The letting date was Aug. 15, and the county received three bids.
Hawkeye Paving Corp. submitted a more than $4.5 million bid, and Inroads, LLC, submitted a more than $3.85 million bid. But it was Manatt’s, Inc. who would get the low bid of more than $3.81 million. The engineer estimated the project to cost $4.7 million. Frietsch said he programmed it at $4.5 million.
“They are about 20 and 25 percent below estimate,” Frietsch said of the low bid from Manatt’s. When looking at the bidding documents, Frietsch noticed Manatt’s submitted a $0.01 bid for three different materials. The other two bidders marked all three at $170 each. Frietsch said it would amount to about $15,000.
Another substantially low unit price showed up for asphalt emulsion for fog seal. Manatt’s submitted the price at $0.50 per gallon; whereas the other two bidders submitted $5.65 per gallon and $11 per gallon. Frietsch said if the unit prices matched the other bidders, Manatt’s would still be the low bidder.
“I don’t think it would affect our decision at the end of the day,” Frietsch said.
It certainly did not. The county board of supervisors voted unanimously in favor of awarding the contract to Manatt’s.
Extending from Newton city limits to the South Skunk River bridge near the approaches of Interstate 80, the F-48 West resurfacing project covers less than six miles of roadway. The road is highly traveled and leads drivers to directly to Newton, and it also gives access to Baxter via Highway S-52 North.
Frietsch said there are three parts to the project:
• The urban section near Lambs Grove where contractors will remove about five inches of asphalt, reconstruct the inlets and fix the drainage system;
• The rural section from Lambs Grove to the Baxter interchange that will mill out and replace three inches, widen the shoulders and add safety features; and
• The “bridge” section, of sorts, that removes and replaces a substantial amount of concrete on the east side of the bridge and some on the west side.
When contractors are milling and filling the road, Frietsch said they should be able to work around traffic. But the most impactful pieces will be the concrete work at the I-80 interchange, which will require a shutdown and a detour route. Frietsch said the Lambs Grove work may also heavily impact traffic.
“Other than that, it should be a pretty quick and pretty simple process as far as the mill and fill goes,” Frietsch said.
The late start date for the project is June 17, 2024.
The county’s property essentially ends a number of feet before the approaches to I-80. Talsma said this is essentially where the county’s resurfacing project will end. Jasper County has been trying to partner with the IDOT for the past year to finish the small section of road.
“I’ve been talking with legislators, too, and I know there are signature sheets going around trying to collect signatures to tun into legislators to get the IDOT to partner with the county to do that last little stretch,” Talsma said. “That’s one of the worst stretches of the whole road is leading up to that bridge.”
Commonly referred to as “Old 6″ or “Old Highway 6,” F-48 is a secondary road by state standards, but Talsma calls it a primary road because the volume of traffic is higher than most other secondary roads in the county. The straight-shot connection from the interstate to Newton also makes it a popular route.
“That snowstorm a couple years ago when the interstate was pretty much shut down, all of that interstate traffic was coming off the interstate right there by that Baxter exit and driving down F-48 into Newton and then jumping back on to Interstate 80,” Talsma said. “It’s a pretty important stretch of road right there.”
Two bridges were replaced along F-48 in the past few years, too; one was built over Cherry Creek and the other over Prairie Creek. Talsma said those bridges will not be affected by the resurfacing. In fact, the reason they were replaced over other bridges with lower weight restrictions was to prepare the F-48 project.
“It’s the same reason why the bridge over there west of Colfax is getting done now,” Talsma said. “It’s because, once again, instead of doing this stretch and leaving this little bridge that we know we’re going to replace in five years and then having to rip it out, it’s a, OK, let’s do everything now.”
The second phase of the resurfacing project will extend from the South Skunk River bridge to Iowa Highway 117 near Colfax. Talsma said that project is in the process of getting engineered now, and it will go through the same process of the first phase. It will be let out in 2024 for the 2025 construction season.