Trail extension moves forward despite increased cost
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Lake County News Chronicle
A paved footpath connecting the east and west neighborhoods in Two Harbors is slated for construction this summer—costing $100,000 more than the city planned to spend on the project.
The total price tag ruffled some feathers at the Two Harbors City Council meeting last week. The planned section will be constructed behind Super One and Shopko and will connect the paved trail in front of the stores to 11th Avenue.
“A $102,000 pill is hard to swallow,” said Councilor Jerry Norberg at last Monday’s meeting.
Tom Pfeffer, senior project manager at Ayres Associates, the firm that is designing the trail, said the total cost now stands at $540,000.
“That’s $80,000 to $100,000 higher than originally anticipated,” said Josh Bergstad, senior planner at Arrowhead Regional Development Center. Two Harbors contracts with ARDC for city planning.
Pfeffer said the price rose significantly once the contracts were finalized. Previous numbers were just estimates used for grant applications.
“Since that time, as we’ve developed the specific details, we’ve gotten a much more definite construction estimate,” Pfeffer said.
The City has two grants to help cover the costs of the trail. One is a federal grant of about $340,000 that requires a 20 percent non-federal match, the other is a Department of Natural Resources grant for $100,000.
“The rest of the dollars have to come from City funds,” Pfeffer explained.
The trail, which is only a couple of blocks long, carries such a hefty price tag because it crosses a section of CN railroad. An underpass will be built to bypass the railroad, which is an expensive undertaking. The City will also pay CN railroad $3,700 for an easement and will reimburse them for construction required on the track, which is expected to cost $39,350. Pfeffer said CN officials were easy to work with and helped him get the design plan done in time to receive the grants.
“They were extremely cooperative and helpful,” Pfeffer said.
Additionally, the trail crosses undeveloped wetlands. Construction over wetlands is subject to environmental review and associated costs, and the City must purchase wetland credits to offset the destruction.
“It ends up being a very expensive piece of the trail. The biggest challenge is finding funding to pay for all of it,” Pfeffer said.
The city council voted to move forward with the project, approving Ayres Associates to provide staking and survey work for phase II of the project. Pfeffer said construction should begin this summer.