GOSHEN — The sharp eyes of county highway engineers are credited with helping the Kercher Road bridge project finish more than $900,000 under budget.

The Elkhart County Commissioners on Monday voted to reduce the amount drawn for the C.R. 38 road and bridge project by $962,200. The extra money will be returned to the Economic Development Income Tax fund.

The $12.5 million project included replacing the 27-foot-wide Kercher Road bridge over the Elkhart River with a 58-foot-wide span. It started in early 2017, after a months-long delay in utility relocation. The bridge was reopened to traffic by the beginning of 2018 but was not officially finished until this year.

The joint project involving the Indiana Department of Transportation, Elkhart County and the city of Goshen had been in planning for more than three years before construction began.

“You just did a reduction of over $960,000 on that Kercher Road project, and I don’t think that should just go unnoticed. That’s because your engineering staff did an excellent job in navigating that project,” County Administrator Jeff Taylor told the commissioners. “If you think back, all the hassle we went through ... the contractor had to work around delays in utilities and all kinds of other obstacles, and despite that, we drive on a nice road today.”

Taylor said the cost savings came in small ways here and there. But he attributed much of it to careful construction inspection, such as making sure the quantities of materials were correct and that the county wasn’t overpaying.

“It was a lot of little things. When you have a contract that size, two things can happen,” he said. “One is, you can miss a lot of little things you should have caught in the design, which drives the cost up. Or you can track quantities appropriately and make sure that when they come in it’s under, and I think that’s what they did.”

He added that there were some liquidated damages the contractor had to pay because of running past the deadline, which added to the payback a little, but said it wasn’t an exorbitant amount. Highway Engineer Kent Schumacher said the damages were about $70,000.

The county also had a contingency for unexpected costs built into the original appropriation of funds, but it didn’t have to dip into it much, Taylor said. Some savings were also found in right-of-way acquisition and design changes, the two said.

“There were a lot of moving parts,” Taylor said.

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