Note: This story was updated at 10:13 a.m.
A railroad museum that has been planned for years at Heritage Center, the former K-25 site, will not be built due to budget constraints, officials said Monday.
The lowest qualified bid for the 3,315-square-foot facility came in at nearly $1 million, or about 26 percent more than expected, a press release said.
The Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee’s Heritage Center LLC and the Southern Appalachian Railway Museum determined this week that the cost was too high, the press release said.
The museum had been expected to cost about $860,000 at most. It would have have been built near the current Wheat boarding station at Heritage Center with a $460,000 state grant, $120,000 raised by SARM, and $280,000, along with a land donation and defrayed “soft costs” from CROET, the release said.
“SARM and Heritage Center, along with the City of Oak Ridge, worked diligently to bring this project to fruition,” said Lawrence Young, CROET president and chief executive officer. “Despite herculean efforts on the part of many people, sadly, due to budget constraints we will not be able to construct this very worthwhile project.”
The project faced state deadlines last year. Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said it was the oldest pending grant in Tennessee, and he received permission from the Oak Ridge City Council in September to send a letter canceling the grant if certain deadlines were not met.
However, in late October, SARM board members said the museum was still on track, and Watson never sent the letter.
In February, after many hurdles had been overcome, the City Council unanimously agreed to accept the state grant.
Monday’s release said all involved parties agreed that the project should be ended.
“We could not have asked for more from our partners who were committed to helping us create this museum,” SARM President Scott Lindsey said. “We appreciate the time, effort, and commitment CROET put forth to make this museum a reality, but as sometimes is the case, all of our best efforts were simply not enough, as there were too many obstacles to overcome.”
Oak Ridge officials said the project has been under way for about 13 years. Although it had different members then, City Council agreed in 2000 to apply for the museum grant.
Lindsey said SARM will continue to operate its popular excursion trains from its present facilities. Also, the group is now pressing forward with alternate plans for a museum site development on its property south of the present boarding location.
“Despite the setback with this specific building project, we are confident that we can still develop a museum facility that will enhance our excursion train operations and also provide an educational and enjoyable experience for our guests,” Lindsey said. “We continue to build a collection of historic railroad equipment and artifacts that is both nationally recognized and uniquely tied to the heritage of this region.”
The museum currently operates out of a preserved, Manhattan Project-era guardhouse at Heritage Center, and it has more than 100 members. From this station, SARM runs “The Secret City Scenic Excursion Tour,” which takes a 12-mile, one-hour trip through the historic U.S. Department of Energy site and along Poplar Creek and Highway 327.