Costs rise for Tewa Court utility undergrounding project in Del Mar

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

The estimated cost to complete the Tewa Court utility undergrounding project in Del Mar has risen to about $960,000, compared to the initial estimate of $635,000 last spring, a city official said during a Feb. 7 City Council meeting.

The City Council allocated about $296,000 in additional funds from the city’s Measure Q budget to bridge the difference. The funding includes a $447,400 contract with Blue Pacific for the construction of the project, which is about double the cost that the city estimated in its bid documents.

The other two bids the city received from contractors were about $650,000 and $971,000.

Last year, council members said the Tewa Court undergrounding would be a small project that provides useful data on the costs and other aspects of how to move forward with citywide undergrounding. But almost a year later, during this week’s council meeting, city staff had to explain why the rising cost estimates for Tewa would hopefully not foreshadow more rising costs as undergrounding continues.

Del Mar City Councilman Dave Druker said last spring that the Tewa project would give the city “confirmation about what it’s going to take and what the effect will be on Measure Q,” which is funding utility undergrounding.

“It is a little disconcerting it has come up to be so expensive,” he said during this week’s council meeting.

According to a city staff report, the Tewa Court/10th Street project involves 1,000 linear feet of overhead wiring, 1,345 linear feet of joint trench and 10 poles to be removed. Reasons for the inflated budget include more footage of trenching than expected, the small size of the project, and supply chain and inflation issues, the report said.

The next phases of the utility undergrounding project are area X1A, located by Crest Canyon, and area 1A, which runs along Stratford Court South. Areas X1A and 1A were going to be the first segments of the project before the council voted last year to add Tewa as a pilot project.

Assistant City Manager Kristen Crane told council members that “there have been a lot of lessons learned,” and more will be learned through the construction scheduled to begin at the end of February.

“I do think that it would be really beneficial if we were to continue going with the project at this time,” she said.

The Tewa project is expected to be completed this summer.

“This is a tough time, people in the business are bidding high because they’re not really hungry for work,” Del Mar Mayor Dwight Worden said. “But are we expecting numbers going forward to be in this order of magnitude above what we predicted originally? And why were our initial estimates so far off?”

“We had to beg and plead for the three bids that we got for this project,” said Bridget Black, a city consultant from KCM Group. “I don’t see that happening for 1A and X1A. There are going to be more contractors interested.”

“It took us all by a bit of a surprise,” added Duane Stroobosscher from Utility Specialists, another city consultant. “We really had to beg and plead. I called everybody I knew to bid on this project. It’s just a tough time of year, and just a tough scope for the bigger units to mobilize in. So we’re using some smaller outfits on this one and hopefully do better on the next round.”

Del Mar City Councilman Dan Quirk said “we are intensely focused on this issue.”

“We are looking at all sorts of ways to try to do this in as low a cost as we possibly can,” he said.