The Mercer corridor plan. Image from SDOT.

In more city street news, the city sends word that work on the project to address the so-called “Mercer Mess” has had its first major bid come in under-budget. The project will convert both Mercer and Valley in South Lake Union into a two-way boulevards.

Gary Merlino Construction Company, the apparent low bidder on the east phase of the Mercer Corridor Improvements Project, submitted a proposal that came in at about $47,850,000, well under the engineer’s estimate. Overall, there is a bid savings of approximately 23 percent on demolition and construction from earlier estimates, which the project relied on as part of its funding plan. The city is further reviewing the bids for completeness and responsiveness.

Another illustration that the major project bid environment is very favorable right now, which could affect transit projects such as University Link and the First Hill Streetcar.

41 Replies to “Mercer Bids Come in 23% Under Budget”

  1. IIRC the Fed’s are footing a large part of this project, yes? Will any savings be split between them and the city (and state?) or is their contribution fixed so savings will go to us?

  2. In bad economic times, it is not unusual for projects to come in under bid, as construction companies are trying to get what ever work they can just to keep the doors open. A major reason why bad economic times are a good time to spend on infrastructure- it is often cheaper during such times and puts some people to work.

    1. I would have to disagree slightly with your comment that – “it is not unusual for projects to come in under bid, as construction companies are trying to get what ever work they can just to keep the doors open”. That may be true for small contractors going after small projects but in the case of the winning low bidder for Mercer, it was probably more about supply and demand than simply needing to remain in business. The reason bids are low is because the City probably put together their “engineers estimate” a couple of years ago when the design was complete. In addition, the project was put off until the TIGER funds were secured. Material, equipment, and labor prices were a lot higher two years ago when the demand the demand was up. This year not so much. Lower construction costs are a reality of the current market and a benefit to the various owners of goverment funded projects – they get to highlight to the publice that they are getting a big savings in cost, which can’t hurt when your project has had so much bad press.

    2. Nevertheless, it’s true that construction costs are less in recessions, and as a result, the biggest infrastructure improvements tend to be made during them.

  3. Looking at the map, surprised the westbound lanes turn into Broad instead of Roy, but I guess they want to cut down on traffic on Valley.

      1. Though adding a crossing at Roy and keeping the one-way couplet configuration west of 9th could be a cheap alternative to the West Mercer project. All depends on where you want to put the SR99 on/off-ramps though.

    1. Despite my criticism of SDOT, I like this one and have stated as much on these forum boards. I especially like the westbound route onto the Broad Street underpass. Mercer should not become a thru-corridor to Elliott. Broad and Denny are both commercial corridors while Mercer is mostly residential. The Mercer West project is not a good idea. Combined with the deep-bore tunnel, it’ll increase traffic on Mercer east of Aurora, a counter-productive arrangement. It’s just one more reason among many to oppose the deep-bore tunnel. Some version of the cut/cover Tunnelite really is the only sensible tunnel option.

      1. I could not disagree more. The full boulevard from Elliot to I-5 is the way to go. Broad is essentially a giant un-bike/ped-friendly obstruction. I think they should stick with the original plan and close it.

      2. JAmes couldn’t disagree more because there’s not much logic for making Mercer a thru-corridor between I-5 and Elliott. Broad and Denny will remain wide commercial corridors and therefore more suitable routes than Mercer Street and Place which are mostly residential and only 2 lanes wide west of 1st Ave N. It just goes to show that riding a bicycle does not automatically make an urban environmentalist.

        Poorly arranged Broad and Denny are terribly overrun with traffic, for sure. But the Mercer West Project will make Mercer worse. Duh.

  4. One improvement that’s gone under the radar here is the rebuild of 9th Ave N from Aloha St to Republican. Last I heard it will be two-way and get a dedicated bike lane S and sharrows N, and there will be a new traffic signal at 9th Ave N and Aloha (and Westlake) which will make it a lot safer to get to the Chesiahud Lake Union Loop. If they can get Westlake on a road diet from Fremont this will be a great bike route.

    1. However, I’ve stopped taking 9th when I biking Downtown because once it dead-ends at Denny it’s hard to get Downtown. Lately I’ve just been riding between the streetcar tracks on Westlake, as long as you pay attention it’s no problem.

      1. There’s actually a signal at 9th and Denny that makes it fairly easy to meet up with Westlake right there, though since they’re about to dig a 40ft hole in 9th I guess it’s good to have a different route. :)

        You do have to pay attention on the tracks, even very experienced cyclists have taken spills. A lot of people do it (including me occasionally) but personally I wouldn’t make a habit of it. It would probably be safer to just stay in the left lane.

      2. From the bike lane on 9th I usually head up Bell to 7th and then continue on to downtown, or I just stay on Bell if I’m headed to Belltown. Or I just deal with the streetcar tracks on Westlake, which really isn’t that big of a deal if you can bunny-hop.

  5. I’m about to have my office move to 8th and Virginia. Coming from Eastlake, I’m kinda of baffled as to how to negotiate this on bike. It seems like a no-brainer to put a bike path into the new mess, especially given how they screwed the road up so bad with the SLUT, but I don’t see one.

    I guess it wasn’t a no-brainer.

    1. I was thinking that they should designate one of the North-South streets through South Lake Union as a bicycle boulevard, putting a bunch of traffic calming improvements in there and making it clear that it’s a street for cyclists, and the cars are guests. I think that Boren would the best, because it is a through street but doesn’t have streetcar tracks on it.

      1. Actually I didn’t realize this, but Boren doesn’t go through. So the only way to go straight through into Downtown is by going on Westlake. Ugh why did they make that decision to put it in the right lane? I guess now we’ve learned our lesson…

      2. Well, depends on what you mean by “straight through into Downtown”. Stewart is the most direct route from Eastlake, and there are a lot of different downtown destinations. 7th connects to Dexter.

      3. Hmm, Boren gets pretty steep after about Harrison though, and doesn’t have a signal at Denny. Terry Ave is a green street but is mostly one way and has tracks… that leaves 9th Dexter or Eastlake (or a non-through street).

        9th seems like a pretty good option since it already has some bike lanes and could connect to Bell St Park.

        Eastlake could be a bike boulevard north of John (REI). It’s right by I-5 but there’s only that one freeway ramp at Stewart.

      4. I meant that continues straight across Denny, but it appears that the only ones that do that are Westlake and Terry. Damn you, independent city forefathers. I guess 9th to Bell will have to do.

      5. Yeah, the strangest part to me is that they had the chance to fix part of it during the regrades!

    2. There will be a bike route, but there’s going to be a lot of construction for a few years.

      I would either go up Eastlake behind the Hutch where there’s a bike lane and then down Virginia or Stewart, or for a flatter route go along the lake and cut over to 9th or Dexter.

      It’s definitely a shame about Westlake considering it could have been a really nice complete street.

  6. By the way I’ll unfortunately be out of town but there’s this lunch meeting with Larry Phillips about transit on Thursday in a new Amazon building:

    Join the SLU Chamber’s Public Affairs Committee when King County Councilmember Larry Phillips and representatives from METRO will update us on transit service issues in South Lake Union.

    Date:May 27
    Time:12:00 noon – 1:30 pm – Van Vorst Conference Center – enter the building through the gated entry on the south side of the building
    Address:426 Terry Avenue North

    1. I agree. Broad is an unneccessary nightmare that completely disrupts the area. I like the original plan of having Mercer be two way the entire way to Elliot–creating a walkable/bikable boulevard to get across the city. It doesnt seem like its going that way, though.

    2. They are, but I believe that’s tied to the Hwy 99 tunnel project, so it will be built as a separate phase.

    3. I asked this back in February. It seems crazy that SDOT is building access to Broad just to have it closed once the 99 tunnel is built. That’s our tax dollars at work, building streets that will last only a few years.

      1. I don’t know. They’re only at 5% design, and I don’t think they’ve been funded. But then the tunnel won’t be done until at least 2016.

      2. Despite my criticism of SDOT, I like the westbound Mercer route onto the Broad Street underpass. Mercer should not become a thru-corridor to Elliott. Poorly arranged Broad and Denny are terribly overrun with traffic, for sure. But both are wide commercial corridors while Mercer is mostly residential and only 2 lanes wide west of 1st Ave N. The Mercer West project will make Mercer worse. Duh. Combined with the deep-bore tunnel, it’ll increase traffic on Mercer east of Aurora too. Whoops. It’s just one more reason among many to oppose the deep-bore tunnel. Reasoning isn’t a Seattle enviro strength. They still think Grace Crunican’s Waterfront Wide Plaza design isn’t stupid.

  7. By the way, any plans to do anything about the giant parking lot that is Westlake between Mercer Street and Fremont? Seriously, that could be great lakefront area but instead its a giant parking lot.

    1. And a haven for crime.

      Seriously, the west side of Lake Union is one of the most baffling parts of the city. You look at it from across the Lake and you see all this dense housing of condos right by the waterfront, and you think, “That must be a happening place.” But you go there, and, not so much.

      The road needs to be put on a diet, and the parking lot definitely needs to be scaled back. Does the city own the lot? Can we put the street car there? I know, politically it is never easy to take away parking. But it’s ridiculous to waste so much prime territory on a sea of parking.

      1. The parking lot is city property (it’s all metered). I always assumed that if a streetcar went in, that’s where it’d go. Hopefully with a parallel bike path.

      2. But the density doesn’t actually mean that many residents find it easy to walk to any given point in the neighborhood, due to its linear rather than gridlike layout. It’s a pain to cross Westlake. And Dexter is only a block away, but it’s a completely different neighborhood because it’s hard to get between the two. Putting regular pedestrian access between the two streets (and I mean every 100-200 feet, like city blocks) along with lots of crosswalks on each street, perhaps with center islands to make crossing even easier, could change this area pretty dramatically.

  8. Is there any hope of investing the saved money nearby, like in McGinn’s Walk-Bike-Ride plan for W Nickerson?

  9. On Seattle Channel’s City Inside/Out Council Edition May 26th, Councilman Licata mentions the Mercer West project with “$50-$60 million shaved off, particularly on the Aurora Underpass.” Sounds like Aurora Underpass will remain 4-lanes wide, possibly in two directions.

    Sounds feasible, but I’d argue the redesigned Broad Street Underpass along with Denny Way be the main thru-corridors to Elliott, rather than dedicating Mercer for that purpose through residential Lower Queen Anne. In which case, motorists exiting the “idiotic” deep-bore north portal could turn left on 8th (with a stoplight at Mercer) straight through to the Broad Street Underpass. In the reverse direction, after exiting the Broad St Underpass onto Mercer, motorists go under Aurora Underpass and reach the south entrance to SR99 a block away.

    Either way, motorists are stupendously redirected from the current simple and more direct access to SR99 in Lower Belltown.

    I’m studying SDOT’s detailed maps of the new 6th Ave deep-bore north portal and notice no consideration given for Broad Underpass/Broad/Denny as existing thru-routes to Elliott. Translation: SDOT actually plans to make Mercer traffic through Lower Queen Anne as bad as on Denny Way and Broad Street. Duh….

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