Arlington aquatics center bids ran millions higher than expected


An illustration of a proposed play pool for Long Bridge Park. (Hughes Group Architects)

Arlington County officials, who had expected to pay about $79.3 million to build and equip an aquatics center at Long Bridge Park, were so stunned last month when all four bids exceeded that estimate that they postponed the project.

Those bids, which County Manager Barbara Donnellan at the time said were “significantly higher” than expected, ranged from $81.9 million to $82.8 million, the county revealed today.

Those bids do not account for design, furniture, internal equipment and fixtures, technology, security, public art, construction management, third-party testing and required permits, which were part of the county’s $79.3 million estimate.

“County staff will not provide break-downs of the costs of these other elements, because to do so would allow a determination of the underlying construction cost estimate,” said Jane Rudolph, director of parks and recreation, in a prepared statement.

Long Bridge Park, itself just two years old, is built on reclaimed industrial land in Crystal City, between I-395 and railroad tracks. The expansion of the park was supposed to be financed by the proceeds of two voter-approved bond sales and $15 million from the real estate company Vornado Realty Trust, the county’s biggest taxpayer.

The aquatics center would feature an Olympic-size competition pool, a teaching pool, a family leisure pool with slides and a “lazy river,” an indoor fitness area and eight acres of outdoor space. A popular esplanade that is in use would be expanded, and eight acres of new parkland would be designed as spaces for festivals and large gatherings.

Four companies bid on the project, although the county warned that it’s not always apparent who the lowest bidder is because requirements for the project are complex. They were:

●Balfour Beatty Construction, LLC: $82,197,000.

●Christman/Apex, a Joint Venture Partnership: $82,821,000.

●Gilbane Building Co.: $82,450,352.

●Hess Construction + Engineering Services Inc.: $81,902,001.

County staff is analyzing the bids and Donnellan is working on a recommendation for the County Board as to what its next steps should be.

Bids will be opened Friday for another major construction project, the renovation of two floors at 2020 14th St. into a 24-hour homeless services center.

Patricia Sullivan seeks out news about Alexandria and Arlington County for the Washington Post.
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