CEDAR RAPIDS — How badly do library patrons want a planned skywalk from the Fourth Avenue SE Parkade over the railroad tracks to the new library, slated to open in August 2013?
That’s the question the city’s library board is suddenly wrestling with because of a midstream surprise in the construction project. The railroad, it turns out, renovated the track bed and track under the proposed skywalk earlier this year after the library construction had begun, raising the track 6 inches and putting the bottom of the skywalk into the 25-foot clearance distance required by the railroad by 4 inches.
Bob Pasicznyuk, the library director, told the library board Thursday that he will meet with representatives from the railroad and the city today to see how likely it will be for the railroad to grant a variance to allow the planned skywalk to intrude into the required clearance zone.
Without a variance, the library board will need to decide if it wants to pay to redesign the skywalk so it stands above the clearance zone, a cost which Pasicznyuk put at $15,000 to $20,000. The skywalk is now about a $500,000 piece of the $46 million library project.
However, the skywalk construction should be under way, and the surprise wrinkle has put its construction on hold. Construction now isn’t apt to begin until winter, which could add additional cold weather-related costs to the skywalk’s construction, Clayton Cubbage, senior project manager for the Ryan Cos. US, Inc., told the library board on Thursday.
Pasicznyuk also estimated that $23,000 already had been spent at the construction site in preparation to build the skywalk. A support pillar now in place will need to be demolished if the skywalk isn’t ultimately built, he added.
In addition to cost, Pasicznyuk and the library board on Thursday said the board also may need to face a possibility that the skywalk matter could delay the library’s opening if the issue isn’t resolved quickly, which Susan McDermott, the board’s chairwoman, recommended that the board do.
Mark Davis, corporate and media relations for the Union Pacific Railroad, on Thursday said the railroad’s engineers will have to sort out the clearance issue with the city of Cedar Rapids and the library board. He cautioned, though, that the railroad pays close attention to clearances in an era when rail cars have gotten taller.
In addition to the clearance issue, there are other issues involving the skywalk.
Pasicznyuk told the board that the skywalk clearance-distance issue arose during a meeting to discuss costs for the railroad during construction of the skywalk. The railroad has reported that it expected to charge $65,000 to the project to have a flagman in place along the tracks at the skywalk site during construction. This is a new cost to the project, the library director said, adding the project has contingency money to cover such costs.
In addition, the pillar for the skywalk encroaches by about a foot into the right of way required by the city for the city’s bicycle trail alongside the railroad track. The library board will need to secure permission from the city for the encroachment, which prompted board member Doug Elliott to note that the city earlier had approved the plans for the library’s construction.