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Bituminous Roadways, by contrast, struggles to compete on the price of asphalt alone because it has less storage space and must pay higher rates to truck in materials to a crowded urban area.
“No doubt they’re closer,” Ogren said. “But their mix prices are higher. … We take the low bid unless there’s extenuating circumstances.”
Ogren noted that Bituminous Roadways’ materials still have to be trucked into the city. “It might be more efficient to drive out there [to Maple Grove and Burnsville] where the overall production is more efficient,” he said.
Records reviewed by the Star Tribune show that the difference is nearly negligible when hauling costs are taken into account. Records from 2013 show that when accounting for traveling expenses, it would cost the city up to 0.4 percent more — or $1,898 — for municipal trucks to haul asphalt from the Minneapolis plant instead of those owned by Commercial Asphalt.
The city once operated its own asphalt plant in south Minneapolis, starting in 1968. But in the 1990s, it began exploring alternatives.
The city rejected several proposals by Bituminous Roadways to jointly operate an asphalt plant on the northwest corner of East 28th Street and Hiawatha Avenue.
Citing high renovation expenses and declining production, the city decided it was cheaper to privatize the work and decommissioned its plant in 2004. It began awarding contracts to Bituminous Roadways and Commercial Asphalt.
A city report the following year noted the benefits of keeping its own plant. Those included reduced pollution from vehicles driving longer distances and less fleet maintenance.
Over the last five years, Commercial Asphalt has been one of the largest recipients of city contracts, taking in $25 million even before winning its April agreement.
A Star Tribune examination of asphalt receipts for June 2013 — a busy month for road repairs — found 1,613 trips made for asphalt delivery during that period, occasionally making 100 in a day. The trips spanned at least 38,000 miles.
One of the projects that crews were working on at the time was at 25th and Bloomington. It took 28 trips to Burnsville to deliver the asphalt needed.
The distance from the Minneapolis plant was eight blocks.
Maya Rao • 612-673-4210