Lawsuit seeks to void I-35W bridge contract

  • Article by: JIM FOTI , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 16, 2007 - 8:08 PM

The latest salvo over the selection of a building team for the I-35W bridge moves the fight to the courtroom.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses the Minnesota Department of Transportation of using an illegal process to choose the builders of the new Interstate 35W bridge, and seeks to have the current bridge contract thrown out.

Filed by two Minnesota construction executives, the suit says that the proposal by the winning team, led by Colorado-based Flatiron Constructors, does not meet some of the requirements set forth by MnDOT. It also alleges that the department's evaluations of other proposals contained "factual mistakes" and were arbitrary and capricious.

The suit seeks to have the state's contract with Flatiron, which was signed last week, declared illegal.

It notes that such a move would still leave enough time for two of the other companies that submitted bids -- both of which proposed to complete the work in fewer days and for less money than Flatiron -- to meet MnDOT's goal of completing the new bridge by the end of 2008.

Plaintiffs Scott Sayer and Tony Phillippi are being represented by Dean Thomson, the lawyer who represented two of the losing bidders in a failed protest against the bridge-contract decision. Thomson said the two plaintiffs do not work for either of those bidders, Ames/Lunda or C.S. McCrossan.

Phillippi is a past chairman of Associated General Contractors of Minnesota, a trade group that had a representative on the six-member panel that came up with the technical scores for the four bridge proposals.

A spokesman for Flatiron referred all questions to MnDOT. Kevin Gutknecht, a MnDOT spokesman, said Tuesday that the agency would not comment on pending litigation.

According to the suit, MnDOT gave Flatiron a "competitive advantage" by allowing the firm to submit a girder design that differed from the original requirements. The suit says Flatiron's design does not have the required structural redundancies, and it also says that Flatiron's plan to rebuild a road under the bridge would require work outside the allowable right-of-way.

The suit says canceling the contract would be in the best interest of taxpayers, and it seeks reimbursement of attorneys' fees for the plaintiffs.

Jim Foti • 612-673-4491

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