Three months of reassessing and restructuring its long-planned Rt. 9 traffic calming project paid off for the Town of Hillsboro on Thursday with a new round of construction bids that fall within the budget.
The project—which includes the construction of roundabouts at both ends of the town, new sidewalks and buried utility lines—was re-bid after the first round of contractor proposals in August all came in well over the town’s estimates.
Three companies submitted bids during the second round.Sagres Construction Corp. bid $22.48 million, General Excavation bid $18.29 million, and Archer Western Corp. bid $14.33 million. All fell within the savings estimates that town engineers had projected.
Of the three, two came in lower than the lowest bid from August, which came from General Excavation and was priced at $19.95 million.
Mayor Roger Vance said the decrease in price is directly attributable to the revised traffic plan the town worked out with VDOT, which willallow for the closure of Rt. 9 through the town more frequently than the original plan and allow construction crews to complete the work in just over a year, rather than three years.
“It obviously was very effective in reducing the overall cost,” Vance said about amending the traffic plan. “The hard work that we did with VDOT … just made a world of difference.”
Vance said he, Vice Mayor Amy Marasco and the town’s engineers would meet on Monday to go through the bids, with the hope of issuing a contract by the end of November. Marasco said the selected firm should provide the town with a proposed construction schedule shortly thereafter. Vance and Marasco are hoping work will get underway before the end of the year.
But that work will come alongside a bit of lingering backlash.
The new plan calls for Rt. 9 to be closed entirely through town on weekdays during construction, except for a single eastbound lane to be opened from 4-9 a.m. Beginning on Fridays at 2 p.m., one westbound lane will be opened until 6 p.m. on Sundays. Perhaps the most controversial part of the plan is a call for the road to be closed entirely through town for up to 60 non-consecutive days.
Area residents and small business owners have raised objections during several town meetings and in emails to town, county and state leaders. Some business owners have asserted that by closing the highway through town, they wouldlose more than half of their annual revenue because visitors would avoid the area during the 14 months of construction.
But Vance has emphasized that while the road closures will inevitably inconvenience some, those closures will allow for the project to complete in much less time than what the town had originally envisioned, which will ultimately inconvenience residents less.
While construction crews would have been restricted to a 20-hour workweek under the previous traffic plan, they’ll now be able to condense the work into longer days and an overall shorter timeline.“We’re really unleashing the contractor to make huge gains in productivity,” Vance said.
Marasco said she and Vance took input from residents, business owners and Clarke County leaders into account when redoing the traffic plan.
“We listened hard and did the best to balance all that,” she said. “We’re very pleased.”
If the town selects a construction firm before December and gets the project rolling before the new year, local residents and regional commuters will need to plan on navigating closures throughout 2020.
They’ll have multiple options. While the regional detour will direct traffic originating in West Virginia along Rt. 340 to Rt. 7, local traffic can find its way around the town using detour loop involvingStoney Point Road, Woodgrove Road, Allder School Road and Hillsboro Road.
Vance said only minor signage changes, such as speed limit reductions, have been made to those detours since VDOT approved the town’s traffic plans on Sept. 30. Through-trucks will also be restricted on Rt. 9 in the town during the entirety of the construction project.
Marasco said the town continues to work with entities that will be affected by the closures, including with Loudoun County Public Schools on bus routes.
For more information on the project and updates, go to rethink9.com