SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — The San Jose Department of Transportation warned the city council Tuesday evening that higher than expected bids for road repair work could delay or scale back some projects for the year.
In some instances, contractors returned bids up to 61 percent higher than what engineers had estimated, resulting in variances of the millions of dollars.
In a series of memos to council, the DOT cited a 20 percent increase in the cost of materials, as well as a sharp increase in labor costs.
In 2018, the state’s prevailing wage for asphalt and slurry workers was $31 an hour, but in 2019 it increased to $42 an hour, a raise of 36 percent, according to the memos. The prevailing wage is set by the California Department of Industrial Relations.
“That’s not something that we factor for. We were expecting increases along the lines of 10, 20, 30 cents per hour. This time, it went up $11 an hour,” said Colin Heyne, spokesperson for the San Jose Department of Transportation.
It’s not the first big raise for road maintenance workers. According to state data, the prevailing wage for the job of “sealer/mixer” was $18.42 per hour in 2016, $33.02 per hour in 2017, $34.67 per hour in 2018 and $44.17 per hour in 2019.
“I hope this is the last 40 percent increase because our pavement maintenance budget is set for the next ten years. And if it increases 40 percent every year, then we’re looking at $50 next year, and $60-plus the year after that. Then I think that we’re gonna be in real trouble if it continues growing at the rate it has been growing,” said Johnny Khamis, San Jose City Councilmember.
David Bini, the executive director of the Santa Clara and San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, said road maintenance crews’ wages stagnated for years and are finally catching up.
“I don’t think anybody can raise a family on $42 an hour. The cost of living in the Bay Area is much higher than anywhere else in the state,” said Bini.
Leo Murillo, a lane striper working in downtown San Jose today, heard some rumblings about a potential raise that could come later this year. Murillo currently makes $33 per hour, and said a raise to the $40 per hour range would allow him to work less.
“More family time, go to the park, play with the kids. Spend more time with the wifey,” said Murillo.
The San Jose DOT will shift its resources and manpower and will “get creative” to try and fulfill its original 2019 plan to resurface or repave nearly 300 miles of streets by the end of the year.
“There are sacrifices. So we’re taking our in-house crews off of the work that they’re supposed to be doing, and redirecting them towards this pavement work. Something’s got to give. It may be addressing some neighborhood traffic concerns , it may be working on signs somewhere in town. But we know that getting these streets repaved is a huge priority for our residents and businesses, and we will move around our personnel as needed to accomplish that,” said Heyne.