5-way project a year behind schedule

By Ray Holley, Managing Editor

South entry to downtown will not be ready by the end of 2017 as city hoped

The $10 million-plus project to remake the south entry to downtown Healdsburg is far behind schedule, city officials confirmed this week.

“When all is said and done, the job is going to be a year behind,” said Healdsburg Public Works Director Brent Salmi.

While the project is referred to locally as “the roundabout project” for the traffc circle that will be the most visible result, the work is far more ambitious.

In addition to multiple streets converging in one place, the confluence of Healdsburg Avenue, Mill Street and Vine Street is also an intersection for public utilities, including water, wastewater, stormwater, electricity, gas, cable and a railroad.

It is the massive underground work that has fallen behind schedule, even while traffic rolls by around an ever-changing informal roundabout.

According to Salmi, the wet winter played a major role in the project getting behind schedule. “It’s very difficult to do underground work in the rain,” he said.

Salmi said the contractor, Bay Cities Paving & Grading, “is a bit challenging; they have their own way of doing things and run at their own pace.”

Salmi also said the city may have contributed to the slowdown by being too strict with Bay Cities on job specifications. “We were enforcing the specs more than focusing on getting the job done,” he said.

Salmi said if the weather cooperates for the rest of the construction season, a lot can be accomplished this year and the project may end up looking mostly finished by winter, while final touches like landscaping and sidewalks may be delayed until 2018.

The city’s contract with Bay Cities allows for fines for being behind schedule, but Salmi said the rainy winter will offset some of that and that the contractor can always try to catch up. “We’ll have to wait until the end of the job,” Salmi said.

The project, bid at $10 million, has a $1 million contingency fee and Salmi said it will likely be used.

A call to Bay Cities for comment was not returned.