At the 11th hour, Robert Street costs rise

The largest public works project in West St. Paul’s history is growing larger still as requests for changes filter in from other agencies and new details emerge as designs near completion.

In December, city staff learned the total estimated cost for the Robert Street renovation project was increasing from the $16.4 million mark established in July 2012 to $20.8 million.

In its Jan. 13 workshop, the city council also reviewed a request for another $250,000 in payments to SRF Consulting to cover additional design work.

At the meeting, City Manager Matt Fulton explained costs for both construction and designs had increased as plans became more specific and new details emerged.

“The numbers that the council has been looking at for some time are really based upon what we best knew at the middle of last year,” Fulton said. “As we got to know the project better, the project costs increased because we knew more.”

State, county request tweaks

The increased costs are also driven by additions requested by outside agencies. These include, among other requests:

• a $310,000 fiber-optic system linking the 11 traffic lights along Robert Street in West St. Paul, requested by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and

• a $230,000 median on Wentworth Avenue, requested by Dakota County.

The city anticipates reimbursement from the state and county for much of the added design and construction costs, but SRF Project Manager Dave Hutton explained that simply declining the changes would not be an option.

“It’s like you have a lot of cooks in the kitchen, and it’s not a city street, so when the county and the state asks for things they want done to certain standards, you’re somewhat obligated to do that,” Hutton said.

Mayor John Zanmiller defended the costs as unavoidable additions to a necessary project.

“I’m content to say these cost increases aren’t due to frivolity or demands that we’ve (the council) made,” Zanmiller said. “A lot of this is just simply things that need to be done.”

The council does not take official action at workshop sessions; it will likely vote on the additional costs at an upcoming council meeting.

Luke Reiter can be reached at or at 651-748-7815.


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