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Continued: Were savvy bridge firms duped or outsmarted?

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA , Star Tribune
  • Last update: October 3, 2007 - 10:14 PM

Flatiron's price was roughly $57 million more than the bid submitted by the McCrossan team, and $55 million more than the Ames-Lunda team. The 437 days Flatiron said was needed to build the bridge -- the maximum time allowed by MnDOT under the contract -- was 70 days more than the McCrossan team said was necessary, and 45 days more than Ames-Lunda felt was needed.

A fourth team, headed by Walsh Construction, submitted a $219 million bid and, like Flatiron, said 437 days were necessary to finish the project.

Even more troubling, according to the protest, is that the Flatiron team had a technical score -- measuring everything from experience to aesthetics to public outreach -- that was higher than any of the competitors. Critics have wondered aloud whether MnDOT put too much emphasis on the company's public outreach and communication skills, though the agency said the criteria were approved by the Federal Highway Administration.

"Big, big disparity," George Mattson, chairman of the AGC's Minnesota chapter, said of the scores. Minneapolis city officials, who have to approve the new bridge, have supported MnDOT's bid process and said their deputy director of public works, Heidi Hamilton, was one of the six members of MnDOT's committee that evaluated the bids.

"Our folks have asked those questions," said Pierre Willette, a city government relations officials, "... saying, 'Hey, how do you guys feel about this? You were in on it.' " The response, he said, was that MnDOT's process was "very fair" and "very methodical."

Mike Kaszuba • 612-673-4388

Mike Kaszuba • mkaszuba@startribune.com

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