Foster City officials celebrated initial construction bid prices for the city’s levee improvement project which were much lower than earlier projections.

Interim City Manager Dante Hall said officials opened bids Tuesday, June 30, and received six offers roughly ranging between $60 million to $68 million — within range of affordability for the $90 million bond passed to address the project.

“We were very pleasantly surprised when we opened up the bids. I think this is definitely a good thing for our community,” said Hall, who said the initial bids will be validated over the coming weeks before councilmembers are expected to select a winner Monday, July 20.

Shimmick Construction, of Suisun City, submitted the lowest bid, according to Hall.

“I’m happy with where the bids came in for one of the largest projects in the history of our city,” said Vice Mayor Sanjay Gehani.

Building from the lowest bid of $60.2 million, a construction management firm will be paid $6.6 million and $4.3 million has already been spent for permitting and design. Assuming a $9 million contingency fund worth 15% of the sum, which is separate from the bid amount, the total budget is at $84.7 million, according to Hall.

As recently as last month, officials projected it could cost as much as $109 million, as price spikes were expected due to challenges associated with obtaining the required permits. Voters approved a $90 million general obligation bond for the project in 2018.

For his part, Hall suggested that the pandemic’s impact on the construction industry could have contributed to the final bid amounts.

“There has been some shifting in the construction field,” he said.

Councilwoman Richa Awasthi, who is on the subcommittee for the project, shared her enthusiasm as well.

“This is very exciting news for us,” she said, adding the obligation now falls to officials and consultants to assure the project remains within the available budget.

Assuming all advances on schedule, Hall expected the bid to be selected later this month which could give way to construction starting in August. Officials are planning for the project to finish in summer 2023.

Hall said the projected timeline is not expected to further affect the budget.

The project has fallen more than a year behind schedule due to challenges associated with permitting.

In June of 2018, more than 80% of Foster City voters approved the general obligation bond for the project, which was needed to meet updated federal requirements, protect essential city services during storms and protect the levee itself from earthquake damage. If the measure didn’t pass, then property owners with federally backed mortgages would be required to purchase thousands of dollars of flood insurance every year.

The project became necessary after the Federal Emergency Management Agency placed the Bayfront city into the flood zone because its existing levee system would no longer protect the community from a 100-year flood and needed to be raised.

The existing levee ranges from 12 feet to 13 feet and FEMA is requiring it to be raised to 16 feet in certain areas. After FEMA released the new flood map, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission required the city to raise the levee 2 feet taller than what FEMA originally mandated.

In addition to raising the levee, the project includes redevelopment and widening of the levee Bay Trail and construction of two bridges to increase tidal circulation to enhance the O’Neill Slough in the southern segment of the project site.

With the critical project costs expected to fall in the city’s range of affordability, Hall shared his optimistic assessment.

“This is very good news,” he said.

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