Calera hires Volkert for overpass project

By MACKENZEE SIMMS | Staff Writer 

CALERA – The city of Calera passed a resolution to hire the engineering company Volkert and Associates to begin planning the State Road 25 Railway-Highway Grade Separation Project at a regularly scheduled council meeting on Monday, March 18.

In October of 2022, the city of Calera applied for a grant from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to realign SR-25 by connecting SR-25 South to SR-25 North with an overpass traveling over CSX Railroad and 9th Street. The FRA announced that Calera would be the recipient of a grant in June of 2023.

That following fall, the city released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ), explaining the scope of the project and requesting for interested parties to submit their qualifications to be considered. At the end of the RFQ process, the city of Calera selected Volkert and Associates Inc.

At the most recent Calera City Council meeting, the council had the opportunity to approve Volkert for the first stage of the contract. The cost of this phase is $569,102.50, which will allow Volkert to start surveying the site, conducting NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) analysis and designing a plan.

In order to undertake the construction process, the city needs to reach an agreement with the railroad company, CSX, and Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) to alter the state roads.

According to the person grantwriter for the city of Calera, Cara Stallman, both ALDOT and CXS are currently reviewing agreements for this project.

“Those two agreements are in both agencies working their way through,” Stallman said. “Hopefully, when we get those agencies back, we’ll get a grant award from the Federal Railroad Administration.”

The city has not officially received the grant money from the Federal Railroad Administration, but was able to sign a contract with Volkert due to a pre-award authority.

“The pre-award authority is allowing the city to hire Volker to get started before we get this grant work done,” Stallman said.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, “Pre-Award Authority is provided by FRA that confirms Pre-Award Costs will be reimbursed after obligation provided those costs were incurred after the award selection announcement date.”

Although the city will front the money for the project out of pocket, the grant from the FRA will reimburse 80 percent of the cost once the grant is awarded.

Calera Finance Director Kelly Ellison recommended that the initial payment come from the general fund.

“Today, I’d like to see the general fund reserve loan that money to the project,” Ellison said. “And then when (the refund) comes in from the 80 percent, we’ll pay it back. We’re very fortunate that we have the money available to pay it.”

Stallman explained that the city is using the pre-award authority to save time, so that the project will not experience any unnecessary delays.

“The reason why we’re doing this is more of our timing factor, so Volkert can get started on the project while we’re waiting for ALDOT and CSX to sign these agreements,” Stallman said. “If not, we’d be putting it off another six months.”

Although this measure is being used to start construction as soon as people, Stallman emphasized that does not mean that construction will start soon.

“This is a very long, complicated project,” Stallman said. “There’s nothing that’s going to be quick and nothing’s going to be easy about this railroad project. We’re dealing with the Federal Railroad Administration. We’re dealing with ALDOT. There’s a lot of moving parts, so I just want the community in the city to understand that they’re going to need a lot of patience. But this is exciting.”

 

At this regularly scheduled city council meeting, the council also approved the following resolutions:

-Police chief request to order 2025 patrol vehicles

-Two requests from Main Street to appraise parcels of land to acquire for public use

-Five requests by McWane Plant and Industrial to vacate various street/alleys

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