PRIMGHAR—The O’Brien County Board of Supervisors heard an update on a gravel road bridge replacement project on Tuesday, April 10, in Primghar.

The crossing in question is located just north of 390th Street on Warbler Avenue about eight miles east of Primghar. To help move the project along, the supervisors authorized board chairman Dan Friedrichsen to sign contracts with:

  • The Darrel Dodge Revocable Trust for .14 acres of right-of-way for $840, fencing of $1,200 and a temporary easement of $100 for a total payment of $2,140.
  • Grover and Phyllis Powers for .14 acres of right-of-way for $840, fencing of $800 and a temporary easement of $200 for a total payment of $1,840.

“We’re going to need a little additional room around the bridge for construction and grading and road ditches and things, so we had to purchase some additional easements on either side of the bridge,” county engineer Tom Snyder said in a follow-up interview.

Snyder said the Warbler Avenue truss bridge dates back to about 100 years ago.

“It’s old,” he said. “It’s got some issues with some wooden caps and pilings. They’re rotting out. It just needs to be replaced.”

The new crossing will be a concrete structure and not have posted weight restrictions for heavy vehicles like the existing bridge has had for years.

“It’ll be a little longer than what it is,” Snyder said. “It’ll be a little bigger than the existing bridge that’s out there. The biggest thing is, it’ll probably be wider. The one out there right now is 18 feet wide. This one’s going to be 30 feet wide.”

‘Lot of paperwork’

Snyder said the bid letting for the bridge replacement project is scheduled to take place in October. He gave a long explanation on why it will not happen sooner.

“The counties get federal money for bridges and for roads,” he said. “The feds don’t come out and oversee all these projects. The state is assigned the duty of overseeing these federal dollars.

“The federal projects cost more because there are Davis-Bacon wages, there are some environmental concerns, there are archaeological concerns, there are endangered species concerns,” he said. “There’s a lot of paperwork and red tape that goes along with all these federal projects.”

The 1931 Davis-Bacon Act requires the payment of prevailing wage rates to all labors and mechanics on federal or federally assisted construction contracts. The U.S. Department of Labor administers program responsibilities.

“If it’s a federal project, there are wage scales that contractors have to pay for a truck driver, an equipment operator, and this person and that person,” Snyder said. “Maybe in Des Moines it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but out here, contractors are going to pay much higher wage rates than they would normally pay for a truck driver, so it costs us quite a bit more just because they’ve got to pay these certain wage rates for all these jobs.”

‘We’ll still get money’

Snyder gave an example of where 20 counties are all doing federal projects.

“Each one of them was maybe doing a $500,000 federal project,” he said. “You have $10 million of federal money there, and you’ve got 20 counties filling out paperwork and doing all this and that, this and that.

“If the state had the federal dollars, if the state had this $10 million, they could just take this $10 million and put it on I-29 or put it on Highway 20, and they would have one project with all these dollars, so they would just have one set of paperwork to go through,” Snyder said.

He said having the Iowa Department of Transportation dealing with only one set of paperwork instead of multiple counties dealing with multiple sets of paperwork makes for a better situation at the county level.

“It would be easier on the counties because we’re not necessarily set up to deal with all of this federal stuff like the state is,” Snyder said.

He referenced a piece of legislation — which former Gov. Terry Branstad signed into Iowa law in March 2017 — that authorized the use of primary road fund moneys for the secondary road and municipal street systems.

The objective of the legislation is to help local governments — such as cities and counties — dodge federal paperwork and other requirements that increased costs by an estimated 15 percent on projects.

“The state had to pass a law last year that allowed them to transfer state funds to counties, so what’s going to happen is, the counties basically are going to give all these federal dollars to the state,” Snyder said.

“The state is going to turn around and give us their money, so everybody’s got the same amount,” he said. “It’s a one-to-one transfer.”

According to the DOT’s new policy regarding the swapping of federal bridge and road money for state funds, Oct. 16 is when the first swap project letting is scheduled to happen.

Snyder explained how this policy affects the Warbler Avenue bridge replacement project’s bid letting.

“We were going to let the thing maybe in June or July,” Snyder said. “If we did that, it would be a federal project. We’re going to let ours in October, and then it won’t be a federal project anymore.

“We’ll still get money for it,” he said. “We’ll get the state money that’s coming down, so that’ll be a simpler and cheaper project for us if we wait till October.”

The bridge replacement project is estimated to cost about $450,000, the supervisors were told.

“In a federal project, the state would pay 80 percent and we would pay 20 percent,” Snyder said. “Now with the swap, we can pay 100 percent with the state funds, so we don’t have to come up with a 20 percent local match. We pushed this swap pretty hard — the counties did.”