Helena's Rodney Street Project delayed to next year

Posted at 7:36 PM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-29 21:36:41-04

HELENA — A major street construction project in Helena, initially planned for this year, has now been pushed back.

On Monday, the Helena City Commission rejected the only bid they received for the first phase of work on the Rodney Street Project. That means work on the project won’t begin until at least the spring.

City Engineer Ryan Leland said they didn’t receive as much interest in the project as they had hoped. He believes that’s because many local contractors have been busier than usual this year.

The only bid – $2.8 million – came from Helena Sand and Gravel. That was $640,000 higher than the city had estimated for the construction costs.

“Some of the bid items came in higher than the estimate, so we want to go back and take a look at it and see if there’s anything we can do to change the plans, or why was it different than what we had estimated,” Leland said.

The first phase of work will be on Rodney Street between Broadway and 9th Avenue. City leaders want to rebuild the roadway, put in new water and sewer lines and improve curbs, sidewalks and landscaping along the street.

The project was initially expected to start this spring, but Leland said it was delayed because of an extended design and public comment process. Leaders initially planned to add landscaping and curb extensions on the street, to bring it into line with the city’s usual standards for street design. However, they removed those changes from the plan in response to concerns from business owners, who said they would make the street too narrow and restrict traffic and parking.

“It’s been great working with property owners,” Leland said. “They’ve been very, very good to work with, and we appreciate them.”

The city now plans to put the work back up for bid early next year. Leland said starting work this late in the year wouldn’t significantly change the eventual completion date.

“We came up to winter and we weren’t going to get much done,” he said. “They would start, but it would be minimal, just because they’d be worried about getting caught by weather and not being to close it up with asphalt.”

Leland said they would expect to begin work on the first phase in late March or April and wrap it up by late summer.

Charlie Carson, who owns the B&B Market and several other properties along Rodney, was among the business owners who criticized the original plan. He told MTN Tuesday that he was pleased with the changes the city had made to the design, though he wants to see more historically appropriate lighting be added. He agreed he would rather see the work start next spring than begin this fall and stop partway through the project.

Leland said the city will also begin working this winter on plans and public input for the second phase of the Rodney Street Project, which would cover the area between 9th Avenue and Helena Avenue.