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Del Mar moves forward with undergrounding despite rising cost

DEL MAR – The Del Mar City Council recently allocated additional funds for the city’s Tewa Court utility undergrounding project, which has risen significantly in total cost, according to an update last week by city staff. The project was originally estimated at $635,000 but has risen to roughly $960,000.

The project involves digging 1,345 linear feet of trenching and removing 1,000 feet of overhead cables and 10 poles. Plans include the construction of an 85-square-foot retaining wall. Construction is expected to begin this month and run through early April.

According to Assistant City Manager Kristen Crane, the reasons for the rising costs include the relatively small size of the project, supply chain issues, inflation, overloaded contractors and an increase in costs from SDG&E.

The council decided to allocate about $296,000 in additional funds from the city’s Measure Q budget in order to meet the new costs. The total budget also includes a $447,400 contract with Blue Pacific for the construction of the project.

“My recommendation is yes; I do think we should proceed. I think there have been a lot of lessons learned,” Crane said. “We’ve really been able to test the process, learn the steps and figure out what’s going to be involved.”

Council members raised concerns about the rising costs of the project. Mayor Dwight Worden pointed out that this was originally considered a small project and was not supposed to cost this much.

“This is a tough time, people in the business are bidding high because they’re not really hungry for work,” Worden said. “But are we expecting numbers going forward to be in this order of magnitude above what we predicted originally? And why were our initial estimates so far off?”

Councilmember Dave Druker also expressed his concerns.

“It is a little disconcerting it has come up to be so expensive,” Druker said.

City staff had to explain to the council why costs had risen and reassure them that costs would hopefully not keep rising as the project moves forward.

“We had to beg and plead for the three bids that we got for this project,” said Bridget Black, a city consultant from KCM Group. “I don’t see that happening for 1A and X1A. There are going to be more contractors interested.”

The project is part of the city’s larger Utility Undergrounding Program that envisions parceling Del Mar into eight districts to remove utility poles and replace overhead cables with underground lines. The next phases of the utility undergrounding project are area X1A, located by Crest Canyon, and area 1A, which runs along Stratford Court South.

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