University construction starting in September

City staff says construction on the widening of University Boulevard is scheduled to begin this September after months of delay.

The city of Odessa bought about $1.47 million worth of property along University Boulevard, which Traffic Operations Superintendent Hal Feldman said has been demolished to make room for the widening of the roadway. Right now, he said, utility and cable companies are relocating their cables from old poles to new poles out of the way.

“All that is supposed to be done so we can start construction in September,” Feldman said.

The original completion date for this project, which will widen the road to five lanes and straighten a curve near the YMCA, was initially expected to be completed by summer of 2020. But Feldman is unsure of the completion date now. The project is broken down into two phases–the first phase being from Andrews Highway to Maple Avenue, and the second phase being from Maple Avenue to Grandview Avenue.

“We’re estimating a year of each phase, but I don’t know if construction will actually go quicker since we have moved fences and trees and all the obstructions,” Feldman said.

The construction is the last phase of the project before completion, Feldman said, following the acquisition and demolishing of properties along the roadway. University Boulevard will remain open during construction, but with fewer lanes and a reduced speed limit.

This project is taking longer than expected. Construction had initially been scheduled to begin several months earlier, but Feldman said they had issues receiving bids from construction companies.

"The first time we went out to get bids for a contractor, we had no one submit a bid for the project,” Feldman said. “So that delayed us several months and so then we went out a second time and then Reece Albert is the contractor for the job.”

Council members awarded the project to Reece Albert at a construction cost of $13,966,063 in April. This was about $3 million more than they expected at the time due to the costs being higher than they originally estimated four years ago.

Public Works Director Tom Kerr said the total cost of the project would be about $22,580,599, including the costs of engineering, land acquisition and previous construction.

This is being paid for out of a previous public works bond the city issued in 2013, similar to the certificate of obligation they are looking at now to take on about $93 million in debt for other large projects, including additional roadway improvements.