Officials hope local contractors get piece of Cedar Rapids flood project

Information session for interested local bidders set for next week

(FILE PHOTO) The 16th Avenue Bridge is seen as the Cedar River rises in Cedar Rapids on Monday, September 26, 2016.
(FILE PHOTO) The 16th Avenue Bridge is seen as the Cedar River rises in Cedar Rapids on Monday, September 26, 2016.

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Army Corps of Engineers is trying to tap into the local construction industry as it gears up for its initial flood protection projects on the east side of downtown, including a roller gate to block the 16th Avenue Bridge.

The Corps’ Rock Island district is leading a five-year effort to complete the protection system along the east bank of the Cedar River from south of downtown near Cargill to north of downtown around Cedar Lake. It will include levees, walls and pump stations.

“This is a significant project and it’s going to receive national bids,” said Ron Corbett, business retention and expansion strategist for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance. “This is making sure local contractors have information they need to submit bids. Hopefully they will submit bids and many of them will receive awards.”

Corbett noted the federal government, as is the case with state and local government, is typically required to select the lowest qualifying bid whether the contractor is local or not. However, Corbett noted local awards have the greatest economic “multiplier effect” for the area.

Working with the city and Economic Alliance, the Corps is hosting “an in depth discussion on the initial construction contracts being managed by the Corps” at 10 to 11:30 a.m. Friday at Time Check Hall in the City Services Center, 500 15th Ave. SW.

The event is intended for specialty fabricators, such as those specializing in hydraulically loaded gates; general contractors; earthwork contractors; and concrete contractors. The contractors can learn more about the projects, timelines and eligibility requirements.

Corbett noted three contracts are expected to “hit the street” yet this year, including the 16th Avenue closure structure, a levee near Cargill, and a flood system near the African-American Museum of Iowa and Parking Lot 44 at 850 Second St. SE.


The Army Corps has been under scrutiny recently for its management of other flood systems, particularly as the Missouri River inundated several communities in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. That system is managed by a different Corps district office.

It’s unclear if any of this year’s flood events around the Midwest or beyond have prompted a second look or revisions to the design of the Cedar Rapids project. Officials from the Rock Island office were not available for comment either Thursday or Friday.

The Corps is chipping in $76 million and another $41 million as a low interest loan of the projected $245 million east side system. The city of Cedar Rapids has taken the lead on completing the Sinclair levee and work at Quaker Oats, and would be involved in the flood system through the downtown, also on the east side.

The Corps is not contributing financially to the west side system, which the city is spearheading and has estimated at another $245 million, or to the Eighth Avenue Bridge replacement, which is pegged at $60 million. With inflation, the full system has been estimated to be $750 million over 20 years.

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