Bid Approved for IL Bridge Coating Work
After almost two years, Riverside Township officials have approved a bid for painting and cleaning work on the Swinging Bridge in Illinois. The Board of Trustees have struggled to get bids for the project since the previous coating work was found to be flaking in 2020, while the few bids obtained were out of budget.
The H. Wallace Caldwell Memorial Bridge, also known as the Swinging Bridge, is 210-feet long cable suspension bridge over the Des Plaines River in Illinois. The bridge was originally built in 1940 and rebuilt in 2002. The last coating work was completed in 2011.
Lack of Bids
Last November, it was reported that the Riverside Board of Trustees were having trouble getting bids for coating the rusting and flaking bridge. An inspection of the bridge in 2020 found that the coating applied in 2011 was in a state of “widespread failure.”
“The bridge likely did not have proper surface preparation for the last coating project,” the report concluded. The coating had reportedly been expected to last 25-30 years but has already begun flaking.
In January 2020, the Riverside Township Board of Trustees voted unanimously to hire API Architects to manage the project. Reported by The Riverside-Brookfield Landmark, API recommended removing all existing coatings, dirt, oil and rust from the bridge prior to applying new coating. After receiving no response from seeking bids in the spring and summer, trustees reached out directly to firms for proposals.
The township board budgeted $75,000 for the project in its 2021-2022 budget, but the two bids were more than expected. Lakes and Rivers Contracting July proposal was priced at $725,000, citing a need to abate lead paint, while Era Valdiva Contractors Inc. proposed at an amount of $155,000.
The proposal from Era Valdiva Contractors Inc. did not meet API’s specifications to completely remove the existing coating, instead proposing using liquid detergent and hand tools to prepare the surface.
“This will not remove the existing coating and will result in less optimal adhesion of the new coating and was not recommended by the coating manufacturer,” wrote Ken Nadolski, principal of API Architects, in the company’s August report to township trustees.
Era Valdiva reportedly told API Architects it would resubmit to meet their specifications, but it was never updated.
Nadolski also noted that the project is “extremely small” and not worth it to firms looking for large-scale work through agencies like the Illinois Department of Transportation. The Landmark reported that the township board was trying to find a way to scale back the scope of the work to make it affordable, if they can find a company to complete the project.
However, in July, township officials reported that its third attempt to receive bids for the project was unsuccessful. The latest bidding, which was formally announced in May, received no bids by the June 22 deadline. Riverside Township Supervisor Vera Wilt broke the bad news to trustees at their meeting on July 13.
She also suggested to the board that she work with Nadolski to reduce the scope of work in order to attract bids for a smaller scale project. This would involve separating structural repairs from the project, as well as foregoing a complete coating removal and replacement. Instead, the exposed, rusted sections of the bridge would be scraped, and a surface paint job would be completed.
“I’ve asked the architect to let me know how we can break down the project into essential repairs and aesthetically coating it with the least disturbance of potential lead [paint] issues,” Wilt said. Additionally, she added choosing a scaled-back solution will mean the township board must accept that the bridge will need more frequent touchups if it cannot afford or find any company to do a full coating removal/replacement.
However, there were concerns that a “perfunctory” coating job might not even fall within the township’s budget. Nadolski reportedly prepared a proposal for new bid documents that Wilt suggested.
Project Moves Forward
The sole qualified bid of $433,833 from Capital Industrial Coatings LLC (Hammond, Indiana) was approved by the township board on Nov. 9 in a 3-0 vote, with two trustees absent. A contract for the work will still need to be awarded, but was expected to be finalized by the end of last week and could be awarded next month.
Work is not anticipated to begin until spring 2023, due to township officials not wanting to have the contractor suspend work during winter and leave part of the bridge unfinished.
Capital Industrial Coatings reportedly said it is possible to use an alternate coating to begin work this year, but it was not clear whether that alternate coating would cost more money. Wilt said they were assured that waiting until spring will also not affect the price.
While township officials were unsure of the scope of work initially, the newly approved bid does include cleaning and recoating of the structure, including the abatement of all existing paint. The new paint job is anticipated to last for the next 25 to 30 years.
Prior to any work, however, the township still needs to determine how to pay for the project. It had allocated only $85,000 for the project in its budget for 2022-2023, but property tax bills are also months late, leaving the township short on funding.
The Landmark reports that, in the coming weeks, officials will work with a bond council to figure out the best method for financing the coating project. Wilt said the most likely scenario is for the township to issue alternate revenue bonds, which can be paid off in five to six years. She also added that she hopes there may be grant funding available for the project in the future.
“It’s certainly a lot more than we expected to have to pay, but it’s much more reasonable than $725,000,” Wilt said. “I’m glad it’s finally going to get done. It’s such a showpiece for the township, and it’s been heartbreaking to see it falling into poorer and poorer condition.”