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Continued: Crosstown project fails to draw a bid

  • Article by: LAURIE BLAKE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 17, 2006 - 12:23 AM

Attorney General Mike Hatch's office, and St. Paul Travelers, a company that insures highway builders, separately questioned its legality.

Abandoning plan resisted

In May, MnDOT resisted pressure to abandon the financial plan but delayed the start of the project from July 10 to about Aug. 1 to give competing contractors more time to prepare bids. MnDOT officials said they were optimistic that bids were coming.

When none appeared Friday, the Associated General Contractors of Minnesota said that shouldn't surprise anyone.

"MnDOT is out of money," said Dave Semerad, chief executive officer of the group. "There's no guarantee that the contractor is going to get paid."

Legislators weigh in

The absence of bids prompted political jabs. Some legislators blamed Pawlenty for not raising the gasoline tax to help fund the project.

"If Minnesota had any questions left regarding Governor Pawlenty's inability to handle our transportation crisis, this morning answered them," said Minnesota DFL chairman Brian Melendez. "His administration can't afford to pay contractors to repair our roads."

Rep. Dan Larson, DFL-Bloomington, said MnDOT's financing approach was a crazy, desperate move.

Rep. Ron Erhardt, R-Edina, said, "We are going to continue to have MnDOT failing to meet expectations until we get new money to them. I don't know what it takes for the administration to see that MnDOT needs money."

Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, defended the governor.

Minnesota has had three consecutive years of record road construction, and if contractors don't want to bid on the Crosstown project, "that's the American way," he said. "We will just have to wait until the Department of Transportation and we all as a state can come up with enough money and do it the old-fashioned way -- with money in the bank."

McClung said, "this governor's administration has done more for transportation funding than any other in modern history. We would put our transportation funding record up against any governor anybody could name, and we've done that without raising taxes."

Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, suspects that contractors worked on bids but did not submit them because the bids were over the project budget.

She said it might be time to break the Crosstown into phases and build the parts MnDOT can afford now.

Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711

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