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Tunnel vision getting blurry
There may be no light at the end of the rail trail tunnel under Akron’s Main Street after Monday night’s borough council committee meetings.
Because there may be no tunnel.
The tunnel seemed to be the agreed-upon solution to the issue of hikers and bikers crossing Main Street, but the cost could be $300,000 more than an at-grade crossing, according to Dan Guers, Akron borough manager.
Everybody knew that a tunnel would be more expensive than an at-grade crossing, but nobody figured on a $300,000 price tag, Guers said.
The tunnel issue was revisited Monday night when the council reviewed bids for Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the rail trail. Phase 1 is planned to go from Pointview Avenue in Ephrata, through a portion of Ephrata Township, across Fulton Street in Akron to a point 300 feet east of Main Street. The cost of Phase 1 would be borne by all three municipalities plus state grant money. Phase 2 is entirely in Akron and would be paid for by Akron plus state grant money.
Council looked favorably on the Phase 1 bid from Horst Excavating, the apparent low bidder, with a cost of $246,596 for the Akron portion of the work, $125,127 for the township section, and $410,603 for Ephrata &tstr; totaling $782,366.
Final approval of that bid awaits action by Ephrata Borough and Township.
Horst was also the apparent low bidder for Phase 2 at $407,824. But Horst made an error in their bidding documents. They forgot to include the cost of the tunnel end walls in their quote. Had they included that $149,482 item in their bid, their final number would have been $557,306. They still would have been the lowest of four bidders, but according to borough solicitor Kenelm Shirk, III, things had gotten tricky.
At that point, council adjourned briefly to go into a closed executive session. When they reconvened, they voted to reject all four Phase 2 bids, and voiced their approval of Horst’s Phase 1 bid, but they did not vote on it.
They will vote on it at the next regular borough council meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, May 12. There was general agreement that there would be a crowd at the next meeting, so it has been moved to the Akron Fire Hall rather than at the borough office.
In a discussion about the relative cost of a tunnel and an at-grade crossing, Borough Manager Dan Guers said early discussions of at at-grade crossing included significant outlays for the purchase, transport and grading of clean fill to bring the trail bed up to the point where it would be level with Main Street. That cost may no longer be a factor, he said.
He cited Ephrata Township’s recent experience with filling in an area where the rail trail will cross Millway road after it leaves Akron Borough. The company that’s excavating at the former Artworks building on State Street was looking for a place to get rid of its dirt. The Lancaster Airport will take it, but at a fee of $90 a ton.
Ephrata Township Manager Steve Sawyer confirmed Guers’ thinking. He said Martin Excavating had been looking for a place to dump. They hauled fill to the site, graded it and tamped it down. The township had to pay for some tree removal and for a sedimentation and erosion control plan, but that was less than $2,500.
“It was a fair deal for everybody,” Sawyer said.
Dick Wanner is a reporter for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 733-6397.