Construction Costs Soar for Road Projects, Casino in IA

Sat December 04, 2004 - Midwest Edition

AMES, IA (AP) The Iowa Department of Transportation may cut road projects next year to offset the increasing costs of fuel and materials to pay for the reconstruction of Interstate 235 in Des Moines.

The cuts likely won’t affect the I-235 project or other major four-lane projects in the state, said IDOT Director Mark Wandro.

But other less visible projects, such as asphalt overlays and updating older bridges may be on the chopping block, he said.

“We are going to prepare for that, although I think it is premature to say that we are going to implement that,” Wandro said. “But we are going to make sure that we have some flexibility.”

The cuts are being considered as the state moves forward with plans to spend $120 million dollars on the I-235 project next year, the most ever spent by the state in one year on a highway project.

By comparison, the department spends about $400 million statewide during a typical road construction season.

Wandro said he was confident that the six-year freeway construction project in metro Des Moines would be completed by late 2007.

He said rising costs for energy and materials could force companies to increase their bids for state contracts, possibly threatening the state’s ability to stay within its $429 million budget for the reconstruction of I-235.

“Look at the fuel costs. Look at the steel shortage that was experienced last summer. Look at the global demand for cement. I am knocking on wood, but common sense would dictate that we are going to start experiencing higher prices,” Wandro said.

Cost of Dubuque Casino Expansion Climbs $6 Million

DUBUQUE, IA (AP) The cost to expand the Dubuque Greyhound Park & Casino has increased $6 million since it was approved last year and cost overruns and equipment purchases are threatening to push the cost even higher.

The Dubuque Racing Association Board has authorized $3 million in additional borrowing for the project, currently under construction.

The loan package, which required city council approval, raises the project’s debt to $25 million.

When the 45,000-sq.-ft. expansion was first proposed, the cost was $27.7 million, including renovations to the existing casino. That grew to nearly $30 million by May and with the board’s approval on Nov. 23, increased to $33.6 million.

Bruce Wentworth, general manager of Dubuque Greyhound Park & Casino, said inflated steel prices and other cost overruns have pushed construction costs up by about $1.4 million.

Roger Hoeger, the racetrack casino’s assistant general manager, said equipment costs also have driven up the price of the project.

“We have an aggressive schedule with regards to purchasing slot machines and things of that nature,” Hoeger said.

The casino expansion budget now factors in a $3 million fee the track would have to pay to bring table games to the facility. Hoeger said the state would refund the fee through the form of tax credits.

“If you take the $3 million fee out, the total cost of the project is slightly over $30 million,” Hoeger said.