The Tuscaloosa City Council got one step closer to final approval for a $10 million pedestrian bridge over Jack Warner Parkway during a Monday committee meeting.

The bridge is one of three components partially funded by a $15 million federal BUILD grant that retiring US Senator Richard Shelby secured for the city in 2020.

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The grant is to be spent on the bridge, the Western Riverwalk expansion and improvements to barge mooring on the Black Warrior River.

The pedestrian bridge will also be a key improvement in the area that will soon house the Saban Center, the now-open River District Park and a planned events center all coming soon to downtown Tuscaloosa.

Approval for the bridge has been hung up in the council's the Public Projects Committee, whose members suffered some sticker shock at the project's $10.6 million price tag.

When the city first applied for the BUILD grant, city staff and outside engineers estimated the cost pf the bridge would be around $6 million, the vast majority of which would be covered by $5 million from the federal grant.

Now, thanks to rising costs for material, labor, fuel and more, the lowest responsible bidder for the project offered to build the bridge for $10,620,303.

The committee ultimately voted to recommend that the full council approve the bid, primarily because waiting too long to spend federal grant money can often result in losing it.

Chairman Norman Crow warned the council and city staff, though, that he would not be so quick in the future to recommend approval for projects that are bid at prices that far exceed original estimates.

"Going forward, these cost overruns are going to be very, very difficult to fund without major changes, changes in scope or some huge amount of money that comes out of the sky from somewhere else," Crow said.

If the full council votes to approve the bid, Tuscaloosa's John Plott Company, Inc. will be cleared to begin work building it. Stay connected to the Thread for updates on this and other city projects as they become available.

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