Evanston aldermen Monday night approved a contract to replace sidewalks on three blocks of Central Street, even though the low bid came in 30 percent over estimates.

Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said a flood of new construction projects this year — including work on the Illinois Tollway and O’Hare Airport — have left contractors with more work than they can handle and has dramatically raised the price of key supplies, like concrete.

The low bid, from A. Lamp Concrete Contractors of Schaumburg, came in at just over $1.1 million.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, suggested holding off on the project in hopes the city could get a more competitive bid next winter, since contractors are generally more hungry for work at that time of year.

But Robinson said much of the construction industry is booming now after years of an economic downturn — so there’s no guarantee that waiting would get the city a lower price.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said the block of the project in her ward, between the east and west legs of Prairie Avenue, has vaults under the sidewalks once used to store coal for the shops. Those vaults now are leaking, she said, and the sidewalks can’t be successfully replaced without filling in the vaults.

Alderman Delors Holmes, 5th Ward, said the conditions on the block amount to a public safety issue and the city needs to get the work done.

Alderman Mark Tendam, whose 6th Ward will see sidewalks replace on the north side of Central between Ewing Avenue and Lincolnwood Drive as part of the project, said the work has been delayed for several years and that he doubted costs will be lower in the future.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said that staff next month would present the council with a list of several construction projects that it plans to postpone because of increasing costs, but said he believed this project was sufficiently urgent that it should go ahead despite the higher-than-projected expense.

The aldermen approved the contract on an 8-1 vote with Alderman Fiske voting against it.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Hope better than the downtown sidewalk replacement

    Residents who lived here in the mid to late 90s remember the effects on businesses from the replacement downtown. It went on much longer than planned, made some businesses almost in-accessible esp. on Bensen where several businesses finally had to close–for good. One can only hope the planning and use of common sense is better than what led the city to use bricks which many had to be replaced in a short time from wear and buckling—and those that remain still suffer from the same problems. And of course construction since then cause much of it to be torn-up. The city constantly does poor planning and in fact never seems to give serious thought to what they are doing.

    1. sidewalk
      I hope the material used for this new sidewalk is better than the broken-up gravel used on the north side of Central between Prairie & Hartrey in front of the city parking lot. It may be permeable but is impossible to walk on.

  2. Why so many faulty cost estimates coming from public works?
    I understand that the city is at the mercy of private contractors for the bids, but why can’t they anticipate such things as the Tollway or O’Hare projects and shifts in economic growth when they do their initial budget?

    We’ve seen poor estimations before from Public Works, like after they initiated the yard bag disposal stickers. They seriously under-estimated the revenue they would get from the stickers and the result has been that the general fund has had to pick up the slack for the yard waste costs.

    Are there any economists on staff at the city? Sure, economics is an inexact science; but you would hope that the city could make smarter estimates for planning.

  3. Could have Saved Money

    Council could have saved quite a bit of money by letting  the City employees do it. Seems they got  some good experience  with paving when they built the Patio for the Howard street Bar. Or the repairs could be done when the street patch in done. Thats how sidwalks in South Evanston were repaired. the used same material for street and sidewalks.

  4. This really sounds like poor

    This really sounds like poor planning by the city government. Who was respomsible for accepting this bid? That individual needs to be identified to the public.

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