Bike center work could start in Feb.

Construction on the proposed University of Minnesota Bike Center is back on track

by John Hageman

After an unexpected setback and trip back to the drawing board, construction on the proposed University of Minnesota Bike Center is back on track.

The center will provide 24-hour storage to members, a repair shop, classes and showers for sweaty riders. The Hub Bicycle Co-op will operate the University bike center.

Project Director Steve Sanders said contractors took a walk-through of the space last week after the original construction contract bids came in too high last fall. The new bids are due Tuesday, and construction on the center, located in the Oak Street Parking Ramp, could begin as early as the end of the month.

The project was originally planned for completion last August but had to go through red tape and budget retooling in the past few months.

Since the University plans on paying $218,000 of the estimated $777,000 project out of its own pocket âÄî the remaining $559,000 is covered by a federal grant âÄî Sanders said the assumption was that the project wouldnâÄôt need board approval.

But because the total cost of the project is more than $500,000, it was included in the UniversityâÄôs annual capital budget, which requires approval by the Board of Regents. That approval didnâÄôt come until September.

After the center was approved by the Regents, Sanders said the project faced another roadblock when the original bids from contractors came in too high.

Project planners went back through the budget to find cosmetic features that could be scaled down. Things like light fixtures will be cheaper, but the scope of the project will remain the same, Sanders said.

“I think we were able to get the cost down without decreasing the utility of the project,” Sanders said. “We didnâÄôt have to cut anything out.”

Originally a waiting area for city buses and most recently used for storage, the 18,000-foot space in the Oak Street Parking Ramp already has tile flooring and bathrooms but requires a new ceiling and refurbishing.

The contractor with the winning bid will need to be approved by the Minnesota Department of Transportation in accordance with the federal aid process.

The federal grant is part of the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program. Minneapolis, along with four other cities, was granted $25 million to promote biking and walking as alternatives to driving.

Sanders said he doesnâÄôt know how long that process will take, but he hopes to begin construction at the end of February.

“WeâÄôve been told that they can turn it around in a pretty short time if everything goes right,” Sanders said. “But thatâÄôs a pretty big âÄòif.âÄô”

Sanders added that once construction begins, it will take about 10 to 12 weeks to complete.

“WeâÄôre ready when the space is ready,” said Benjamin Tsai, development coordinator at The Hub. “[The delay] really hasnâÄôt affected us. If anything, itâÄôs given us more time to plan.”

Matt Theisen, president of the University cycling team, said that while he hasnâÄôt heard much buzz about the center, he thinks it will help promote “responsible cycling” on campus.

“A lot of cyclists feel like they donâÄôt have to follow the rules of the road,” Theisen said. “ItâÄôs unfortunate because they can cause unsafe situations when they donâÄôt.”