Government

Bonuses from the city entice Cedar Rapids road projects to end before school starts

City uses rewards and penalties to guide projects nears schools

The intersection at Johnson Avenue NW and Wiley Boulevard SW is seen March 6, 2018. Cedar Rapids worked to improve the intersection, which is near Hoover Elementary, before classes start. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
The intersection at Johnson Avenue NW and Wiley Boulevard SW is seen March 6, 2018. Cedar Rapids worked to improve the intersection, which is near Hoover Elementary, before classes start. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Several contractors have earned bonuses for wrapping up Cedar Rapids road projects, or portions of them, before kids return Monday to the community’s schools.

Cedar Rapids often includes incentives — and disincentives — in contracts for projects near schools as a lever to encourage the work gets done on time and to minimize traffic snarls as school buses, pedestrians and car pools arrive.

“We use incentives as a motivational tool,” said Justin Holland, Cedar Rapids construction manager. “In the construction world, we do a lot to encourage contractors to work longer hours to get the work done. It’s a way to offset costs for them.”

He noted there’s typically a cap on an incentive, while disincentives have no cap and the amount levied against the contractor typically accumulates each day.

Motorists were met with orange cones and lane closures around several schools in recent months. Utility repair work on Wiley Boulevard NW near Hoover Elementary, 4141 Johnson Ave. NW, had closed traffic for part of the summer. That wrapped up last week — meaning parents, students and teachers should have a relatively clear path back to the classroom.

“We are really aware of the school year and the start dates,” said Emily Breen, a spokeswoman for the public works department. “We try to keep that in mind as we stage the projects and timelines.”

Cedar Rapids engineers work to schedule road projects — or at least phases of them — to avoid the school year, such that work often begins as soon as school lets out and wraps up moments before the doors reopen at the end of the summer, she said.

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Motorists and pedestrians headed to Hoover had to learn a new roundabout at Wiley and Johnson during the last school year. The last part of a major reconstruction on Johnson, which still has Johnson closed at Jacolyn Drive NW, should be complete by the end of September.

Other road projects around schools include:

• McKinley Middle School, 620 10th St. SE: Pavement work has been completed so vehicle travel lanes have reopened, but installation of brick pavers, landscaping, and sidewalk walk repairs continue. Most sidewalks are closed, although students can still the school by a sidewalk near Mount Vernon Road and 10th Street SE.

• Coolidge Elementary School, 6225 First Ave. SW: Milling and resurfacing on First Avenue SW has been completed and lanes are open.

• Taft Middle School, 5200 E Ave. NW, and Truman Elementary, 441 W Post Rd. NW: Lanes have reopened following the installation of a roundabout at E Avenue and Stoney Point Road NW and modernizing E Avenue.

• St. Pius X School, 4901 Council St. NE: Lane closures on Council Street remain in place while reconstruction work continues. St. Pius can be reached via Collins Road NE, but not from 42nd Street NE. Work is expected to continue through late fall.

Contractors on the E Avenue, 10th Street and Johnson Avenue projects have met the terms for completion incentives, which they would receive at the conclusion of the project, Holland said.

For the 10th Street project, contractor Pirc Tobin will receive a $30,000 reward for having the road open before the start of the school year.

Pirc Tobin is slated to receive a $20,000 bonus for the Council Street project tied to the school year and special events like St. Pius Festival. Pirc Tobin has met three requirements including maintaining access from Collins Road while school is in session, allowing access via two driveways during the festival, and opening the main school driveway in time for school.

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Boomerang Corp. is slated to receive up to a $25,000 incentive for completing the roundabout at Wiley and Johnson in time for school in 2018.

Rathje Construction is due a $100,000 bonus for completing the E Avenue roundabout before the start of school. Rathje would have faced a $2,500 per day fine for missing the deadline.

“Projects can have many incentives tied to them,” Breen said in an email. “Some of them are to help ensure school access remains open, others are for the greater community benefit of truncating construction days and having the road opened again as soon as possible.”

As an example, Breen said, the Johnson Avenue project also has incentives to help motivate the contractor to complete other portions not directly tied to school access earlier.

Scott Olson, a City Council member and chairman of the infrastructure committee, noted the effort made on summer projects to finish work near schools first and then move on to areas. He said people should not have much confusion getting to school, although in some cases may need a little more time.

“It’s very difficult to be able to complete a project in three months,” Olson said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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