Bettendorf's new Devils Glen bridge over Spencer Creek awaits future growth north of Interstate 80

When the new Devils Glen Bridge across Spencer Creek was dedicated in late 2016, the city of Bettendorf was wise to provide directions for the news media and officials invited to the event.

"At the roundabout, head north on Middle Road, continue under I-80. At approximately ½ a mile past I-80, veer left onto Indiana Road. Follow Indiana Road past Hidden Hills Golf Course," the release stated. "The bridge over Spencer Creek is shortly after that. *Not accessible from Utica Ridge Road at this time due to Davenport’s road construction project."

It's also likely those who attended the dedication haven't crossed the bridge since that ceremonial ribbon-cutting.

That's because the $1.23 million bridge is about as rural as one can get while still being within city limits.

If and when a new interchange is built at I-80 and Devils Glen Road, or when new housing subdivisions sprout around Hidden Hills Golf Course that will no doubt change.

But for now, the Spencer Creek Bridge offers a quiet, scenic platform to view the bucolic farm countryside in all directions.

The deteriorating condition of the old bridge prompted the city to begin planning for the replacement back in 2011.

In 2014, the old bridge was closed to traffic because of its unsafe condition. City officials then began submitting the project to obtain state/federal matching dollars and in 2015 the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) awarded the city an 80-20 matching grant for the work.

Transportation officials said the state evaluates and awards matching funds for bridge replacement based on a matrix considering the amount of traffic, condition of the existing bridge and length of detour faced by motorists if the bridge is closed.

While ranking "fairly low" on the traffic factor, the bridge scored high on length of detour (5 miles) and the fact the bridge could not support existing traffic loads.

At the time, the city said it would be much cheaper to pay the estimated $230,000 (20 percent of the estimated $1.15 million shared cost with the state/federal match) than pay the entire amount of a temporary fix for $450,000.

The new bridge, along with needed right-of-way, construction engineering work and bridge design ended up costing $1.23 million.

After subtracting $804,120 in federal/state dollars reimbursed to the city, the new bridge cost taxpayers $426,000.

Most of the overage in bridge costs came from higher-than-projected construction engineering and bridge design work by the city's contractor, Missman (now part of IMEG).

Between June 2011 and September 2017, Missman was paid a total of $364,269 for the Spencer Creek bridge work, according to invoices provided under a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

That amount breaks down into $163,400 for professional engineering services during the bridge construction, $176,000 for bridge design and "Phase II" work done prior to start of the actual bridge project, plus $16,000 for preliminary design work and $7,600 for work related to right-of-way acquisition.

Fortunately for the city, the actual bridge construction (awarded to Iowa Bridge & Culvert LC of Washington, Iowa) came in at $798,000, substantially below the engineering estimate of $946,000.

Even with change orders that boosted the final cost to $815,000, the bridge work was completed 14 percent below the estimated price tag and helped to partially offset the higher construction engineering fees and bridge design costs.

The other four bids received for the bridge construction were from Jim Schroeder Construction, Inc. ($811,547), Brandt Construction Co. ($852,805), General Constructors, Inc. of the Quad Cities ($911,932) and Helm Group, Inc. doing business as Civil Constructors, Inc. ($939,732).

Unlike the bridge construction, the construction engineering services for the project portion matched with state/federal dollars were not bid.

Because the work was estimated to be less than $150,000, the city was allowed to follow a "most qualified" process to select a firm, an IDOT official said. Under that process, the city solicits interest from three firms, selects the one it considers "the most qualified" and then negotiates fees for the project.

For the Spencer Creek bridge engineering, the three firms asked to participate were Missman, McClure Engineering and MSA Professional Services. According to the IDOT official, MSA Professional responded it could not provide the bridge engineering services and the city selected Missman.

IDOT was not involved in the bridge design and the city did not receive any federal/state matching funds for that work.

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