The city of Charlottesville has selected a new firm to oversee design for a replacement for the Belmont Bridge, a structure that has been deteriorating for several years.
Richmond-based Kimley-Horn and Associates will be paid $1.98 million to serve as design consultant for a “gateway” bridge.
A subcommittee of the Belmont Bridge Steering Committee selected the company as their top pick. Negotiations with the firm have been underway for several months and are now over, according to Jeanette Janiczek, the city’s urban construction initiative manager.
The contract has not yet been signed and a notice to proceed has not yet been issued.
“We expect to have the contract signed by the end of the year and ‘Notice to Proceed’ issued the same day,” Janiczek wrote in an email sent Thursday to the committee.
The announcement comes one year after the city posted a request for proposals to design a replacement for a bridge that was built in 1961. The city decided in the last decade to build a new structure rather than repair the old one. It has a current sufficiency rating of 40.8 out of 100.
The city installed plywood underneath the bridge deck several years ago to catch chunks of the bridge’s underside from falling onto the parking lot. The eastern sidewalk has been closed to the public since April 2011.
The engineering firm MMM Design was hired in 2009 to create plans for a new bridge. At the time, the project had a cost estimate of $9 million.
However, the company’s original design was panned by some members of the public and City Council spent two years debating whether Avon Street should be tunneled underneath the railroad tracks instead.
Councilors opted in July 2014 to proceed with an “enhanced bridge” but MMM Design went out of business soon afterward.
The city issued a new request for proposals in late November 2015. That document was created with input from the PLACE Design Task Force, a group created to advise the council on urban design issues.
“The urban design plan options prepared by the successful offeror must establish the bridge as a gateway connection for the surrounding areas, as well as create an enjoyable and safe experience for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists traveling to and across the bridge,” reads the request for proposals.
“Each design option must create a framework of public space and character with contributing building frontages, development parcels and destinations while protecting the interests of the surrounding existing businesses and neighborhoods,” it continues.
The request for proposals states that the design had to be completed 15 months after the Notice to Proceed is given. The design must go through an extensive public review process.
Progress toward a new design will soon get underway.
“We will be working with Kimley-Horn to start the design process after the first of the year and announce the next Steering Committee meeting to kick off the public participation phase,” Janiczek wrote. “Letters of notice to surrounding property owners will also be mailed shortly so survey work may begin.”
One woman who was present at MMM Design’s first open house in December 2010 hopes that process will revisit work that has already been conducted.
“I feel like I spent a lot of time and energy going to several meetings to discuss the bridge design,” said Ruth Stornetta, who commutes to work each day on her bicycle.
“It’s a little frustrating to see it all came to naught and we have to start over again,” she said.
The project currently has a complete cost estimate of $23 million, but the Virginia Department of Transportation has only allocated about $14.5 million to the project.
City Council voted in November to seek $4.5 million in Virginia Department of Transportation revenue-sharing funds to make up the difference, which will require the city to invest that much of its own funds as a match.
Several other consultants will be hired as part of the project.
KGP Design Studio will oversee the urban design. H&B Survey and Mapping will conduct the surveying work. Accumark will be in charge of the subsurface utility design.
Schnabel Engineering will perform geotechnical investigations and analysis. Commonwealth Heritage Group will do environmental work. Peggy Malone & Associates will collect traffic data.