PASADENA — The proposed restoration of the historic Colorado Street bridge is in jeopardy after the Federal Highway Administration refused to release $12.6 million for the $27.4-million project. The rehabilitation, planned for 10 years, was to begin in January. On Nov. 20, the Board of Directors approved a construction contract with Kiewit Pacific Co. to revamp the 77-year-old bridge spanning the Arroyo Seco.
Highway Administrator Bruce Cannon told the city Nov. 21 that the project needed more study. Cannon's rejection letter said federal officials were concerned that only two companies bid on the project, that the cost is 34% higher than estimated and that Kiewit has not met affirmative action goals.
"We are on the verge of potentially losing this project, even though it's couched in the language of taking another look at it," City Manager Philip Hawkey said Tuesday.
The bad news prompted the Board of Directors on Tuesday to approve a lobbying effort to free the money.
"There's something missing here with our city and it has to do with our ability to pursue our point of view with Sacramento and Washington," Director William Paparian said at Tuesday's Board of Directors meeting. "We've been sprayed on with malathion, we've had a parole office put in our city and now this."
Federal officials were also concerned that other street projects in Pasadena may not be completed because of the $7.4 million in city money slated for the Colorado Street bridge, Cannon said.
And they objected because the project does not meet standards set after the October, 1989, San Francisco earthquake. The new standards require roads and bridges to survive a major earthquake undamaged.
The $6.8 million in seismic work planned for the Colorado Street bridge will ensure only that the structure will not collapse, said Cynthia Kurtz, Pasadena's acting director of public works.
Kurtz said the study suggested by federal officials would cost $500,000 and delay the project up to 18 months.
No federal money is available for the study, she said.
Federal officials said none of the concerns alone is enough to stop the project, but together they are, Kurtz said.
Kiewit has agreed to wait until mid-January to see if the city can persuade federal officials to release the money, she said.
The city engineer's 1988 estimate of $15.8 million grew to $20.4 million when engineering consultants De Leuw Cather & Co. completed design drawings.
In July, Kiewit's low bid came in at $24.3 million, not including contingency costs, bringing the total to $27.4 million.
Both cost increases were attributed to the unique manual concrete restoration work needed. To meet the increases, the city got more money from the county, raised its contribution and cut other expenses.
The structure was the highest concrete bridge in the world when it opened in 1913. But, with the Foothill Freeway, it is no longer an essential part of the area's road system.
Slated to be demolished in 1951, it was saved after an outpouring of community interest.
Director Kathryn Nack said the bridge has been called "Pasadena's Notre Dame" and added, "it would be almost criminal if we dropped the project."