UPDATE: City of Sioux Falls Engineering Department off 100%+ on cost overrun projections for 6th Street bridge

UPDATE: Here is a copy of the final bid tabulation: 6th Street Bridge

I understand inflation and cost overruns, but I am not certain how you can be off by 100%?

Recently the city had a change order (cost overrun) on the wastewater project for over $500,000 with NO explanation. With the 6th street bridge, the council gets a short email from Public Works Director, Mark Cotter (Click on the attachments for Item #27)

Good Afternoon City Council and City Council Staff,
On December 22, 2022, we bid the 6th Street Downtown Project. The major elements of this project include a new bridge over the Big Sioux River, extensive underground public and private utility work, a large bore through quartzite rock under the railroad tracks to allow for the utilities to cross, and the elements for the future quiet zone/whistle reduction crossing. The project came in significantly over the engineer’s estimate at $21.8M. There are a number of drivers that make this project difficult to estimate:
• Limited bidders – This is a very complex project coupled with fact that there is a significant amount of bridge work in the region and several contractors are full or are nearly full for the year,
• Project access is a challenge and primarily must be built from one side, the east side,
• Limited staging area coupled with risk of high river flows with spring rains/runoff,
• Tight labor market and continued high construction cost inflation,

*The original cost estimate put out for bid was $8,867,228 with it expecting to come in at 12,919,000 (as of 12/22/2022) that bid came in at 100%+ overrun of $21,821,916 with an additional add on of $238K for a steel railing (*Bid tabulation from the SF Public Works Engineering Department).

I get it, cost overruns occur, but maybe the city council needs to be asking Mark Cotter how they can be off by over 100% when inflation last year was around 7%. Something isn’t adding up.


#1 rufusx on 01.14.23 at 9:40 am

The company I work for was full up for the entire season last year 6 weeks before it even started. In order to continue to bid on additional projects, we had to buy an entire other company – equipment, employees and all. That might give you an idea. Civil engineers are NOT business/finance managers.

#2 D@ily Spin on 01.14.23 at 9:59 am

Cost plus projects are a problem in an inflation and tight labor market. Competitive bidding is needed. The problem is that, historically, the city withholds payment for other than insiders. Qualified contractors know not to bid. Situations like this are a healthy way to identify and address city corruption. Unfortunately, there’s no means to force change.

#3 Mike Lee Zitterich on 01.14.23 at 10:49 am

Thank You for bringing this topic up, it is a bit confusing, and correct me if I am wrong Scott, but I do not recall the 6th Street Bridge costing us more than $10,420,000.

What is more confusing, is when you review the 2022-2026 Capital Program, Project #11086 is titled Bridge Reconstruction Program, and involves both the 6th Street Bridge and the 49th Street Bridge costing $23,505,000.

However, Agenda Item #6, Sub-Item #25 states only the 6th Street Bridge Plan to reward a bid to be appropriated @ $21,821,000 dollars.

Furthermore, $10,420,000 was appropriated for 2022, $400,000 for 2023, while the balance is spread out over 2024, 2025, and 2026 which I suspect is directed towards the 49th Street Bridge…

This item has to be pulled this Tuesday Night, to be placed on Regular Agenda to be discussed publically, cause it seems a bit confusing what the money is for, let alone, the project itself includes “two bridges” not one.

If, inflation is the answer to why the cost is greater for the 6th Street Bridge, then City Staff should explain further in front of the City Council..IF the cost is to include both bridges, then why is the item only presenting the 6th Street Bridge?

Here is a classic example of an consent item that needs further discussion, let alone investigating.

#4 Mike Zitterich on 01.14.23 at 6:47 pm

Daily Spin,

There is a way to hold the City accountable, it is Section 2.09 of the City Charter.

#5 Fear & Loathing in Sioux Falls on 01.15.23 at 9:33 am

But buying cement from Tommaso ain’t cheap. And then, you got to let Francesco have a piece of the action, too.

#6 "Woodstock" on 01.15.23 at 11:40 am

“I used to have a cousin (…”Yeah, ‘used to’….”…), who thought he was connected…. and he even changed his name to Joey”….

#7 D@ily Spin on 01.15.23 at 1:21 pm

There’s a complaint process. From experience, records and evidence disappear. The city considers itself (per the charter and judicial ordinance) the final authority aside from the courts. The best way to expose them is an aggressive formal state attorney action. However, state government has been passive. A better recourse is federal intervention.

#8 LJL on 01.15.23 at 5:36 pm

Cotter should have been out long ago. That said, steel and cement price is at its highest. Delay 1 year and put it out for bid again after Bidens economy goes tits up.

#9 D@ily Spin on 01.16.23 at 9:16 am

Cotter proved himself. LJL could be right but not because of his incompetence. It’s reached a point where city autocracy makes project management impossible. Cotter would be welcomed elsewhere with a raise in salary and position. There’s career satisfaction where there’s an open business environment. Production and cost control happens when there’s not an open tap that makes the one contractor wealthier.

#10 Welcome back Cotter on 01.17.23 at 7:18 am

Cotter should go back to his consulting job at HDR where he was a semi-competent civil engineer. He has proven his worth to his old company and friends by never making any of them work very hard for their share of the city budget.

#11 Harriet on 01.17.23 at 2:29 pm

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

#12 Very Stable Genius on 01.17.23 at 10:37 pm

Why can’t we just cover the cost of this project with some extra covid funds that are lying around?