Birmingham City Council is set to allocate $ 18 million in funding for the city’s US bailout to build the Bus rapid transit system.
The project, which will create a 10-mile higher-speed transit corridor in 25 neighborhoods, kicked off in December. But rising construction costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic have strained the project, according to Charlotte Shaw, the city’s deputy director of capital projects, at the council meeting on Tuesday.
“It’s called ‘the perfect storm’ for the construction industry right now,” Shaw said. “Equipment, supplies and labor [costs] have increased enormously.
This meant that when the city sent out a request for contractors to bid on the project, the lowest bid it received was still $ 11 million higher than the $ 45.8 million budgeted for the project. When the city launched a second call for tenders, it received none.
Shaw said planners have been working to cut project costs, cutting off significant portions, such as a $ 1.1 million transit signal priority element, which would streamline traffic light designs along the Bus Rapid Transit Corridor. Even with those reductions and factoring in for emergency costs, Shaw said the project would need additional funding of $ 14 million to move forward.
But advisers argued they preferred not to make cuts to the Bus Rapid Transit program.
“I think it’s important that we don’t spend all of this money to just create another bus service,” District 2 Councilor Hunter Williams said. “We have to be really intentional to make sure this is a bus rapid transit service… Initially, due to constraints, Ms. Shaw withdrew the $ 1.1 million for the lights. circulation, which constitute the “fast” part of the BRT. I think it’s important that we maintain this. I think it would be really stupid to spend almost $ 60 million and not do the project right on $ 1.1 million… The real backbone of BRT in any city is its ability to be in. on time, consistent and reliable.
District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt went even further, saying the council should fund the BRT project “in its entirety.”
“It says a lot about who we are as a city and if we do what we say we are going to do it,” Hoyt said. “We have to make sure we’re doing it and doing it right… I really don’t think we need to take anything away from what we’ve planned for this project… When other projects are having problems, we don’t tell them to resize. We find the money.
An obvious source, some advisers suggested, was the federal government Funding for the US bailout. The city received its first installment of $ 74 million in relief money in May; another $ 74 million will follow in May. Although a portion of that first half has already been allocated to bonuses for city employees, there is about $ 53.1 million left to spend.
A proposal to allocate $ 18 million to the BRT program will be submitted to the board for a vote next Tuesday. This money will come initially from the balance of the general fund of the city, which will be reconstituted later by the ARP financing. Although the latter point was debated, the board ultimately voted unanimously to move the proposal out of committee.
Last month, council balked at Mayor Randall Woodfin’s proposal to split the remaining ARP funding into several different “buckets” – including, among other categories, $ 18.75 million for public transportation. Councilors – especially Williams and Hoyt – had disputed the post, arguing that there had been no specific explanation from Woodfin’s office on how this transit allowance would be spent.
Now it looks like they have it.