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High Bids Stall Fort Madison Projects

Jason Parrott
The Fort Madison City Council will decide whether to put the rail platform back out for bid or bring the decade-long project to an end.

The city of Fort Madison thought it would be moving full-steam ahead on a couple of large-scale infrastructure projects. But the construction bids for each came in much higher than planned, leading to delays and even questions about whether the projects can be done.


The city thought it would cost about $2.7 million to rebuild former Highway 61 from 2nd Street to 6th Street. But just one contractor bid on the project and the bid came in roughly $600,000 higher than the engineer’s cost estimate.

The city council talked about accepting the bid and working with the Lee County-based contractor to scale back the scope of the project. But ultimately there was not enough support to do that so the city will put the project back out for bid.

City Manager David Varley said he is hopeful more contractors will respond. He said when the project was first put out for bid a few months ago, contractors already had their projects lined up for the year.

“We are going to rebid it a little later in the fall and we are going to try to change the plan to try to reduce the cost,” said Varley. “We think between that and changing the time when we bid, we will get more bids and lower bids.”

Fort Madison received roughly $14 million from the state of Iowa to assume control of former Highway 61 following the completion of the Highway 61 bypass. The city has already received federal grants to help pay for ongoing and future improvements to the highway through the city.

While the city is putting this project back out for bid, the future of a second significant project is in serious doubt.


Listen to the radio story about the rail platform

Fort Madison has spent more than a decade working to relocate Amtrak from its station on 20th Street to the historic rail depot in Riverview Park. It appeared the work was about to pay off when the two sides this spring signed off on lease and maintenance agreements.

The agreements allowed the city to proceed with the construction of a passenger rail platform at the downtown depot. something that is required for Amtrak to relocate.

The estimated price tag for the platform was $1.4 million but the lone construction bid came in at around $2.8 million.

“The city council members will decide if they want to try to re-bid it or if the project is dead,” said City Manager David Varley. “But for us to find an additional $1.4 million is virtually impossible.”

The Iowa Department of Transportation had to provide the city with a $400,000 grant to help get the project to this point.

The Fort Madison City Council will hold a public hearing on October 1 to discuss the future of the platform project. The current construction bid is valid for a couple more weeks.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.