35W bridge builder will get big bucks for speedy work

  • Article by: Jim Foti and Pam Louwagie
  • Star Tribune
  • August 23, 2007 - 11:50 PM

In its push to replace the I-35W bridge by December 2008, the state on Thursday offered contractors up to $27 million in incentives if they finish the job early.

The team of contractors that will build the 10-lane bridge is expected to be announced three weeks from today, the Minnesota Department of Transportation said in issuing its official request for proposals on Thursday.

The cost of the bridge, which will be built strong enough to carry light-rail trains, is estimated at $220 million to $270 million. The incentives are budgeted into the project and can be paid from the $250 million in federal emergency funds allocated for bridge replacement.

If the team needs to do extra work and asks for no additional time beyond the date set in the contract, it can earn a bonus of $7 million, and can collect another $200,000 for every day it finishes early, up to 100 days.

Such bonuses, which are commonly used in road construction contracts, are a worthy investment, said Jon Chiglo, MnDOT's manager for the bridge project. He and other state officials have said that the bridge collapse's direct impact on transportation costs to drivers is $400,000 a day.

It's unusual to choose a team this swiftly, said Bob McFarlin, assistant MnDOT commissioner -- it's more typical for it to take three to five months.

The accelerated construction schedule also is unusual, and Chiglo said there are several reasons that such a timetable is possible. Because they're starting from scratch, they won't have to work around traffic, and they'll have multiple shifts and crews working on both sides of the river.

The various elements of the bids are due on or before Sept. 13, and the team will be named the next day.

The state and the team then have up to 30 days to sign a contract. Once that's done, and if cleanup of the debris is complete, construction can begin.

The proposals that the teams will submit will include designs at various stages, and McFarlin said the public will have time to offer input on the design process. He noted that three public hearings -- two next week and one on Sept. 5 -- were announced Thursday.

The five teams of contractors are Ames/Lunda, C.S. McCrossan, Flatiron Constructors/Johnson Bros., KTM Constructors (a joint venture of Kiewitt/Traylor Bros./Massman), and Walsh Construction/American Bridge.

David Kraemer, chairman of Edward Kraemer & Sons, which is based in Plain, Wis., is teaming up with McCrossan. Everyone working on bids will be busy, he said. "I imagine they'll work 12-hour days, seven days a week."

Though he hadn't yet seen the request for proposals, Kraemer said he thought that meeting MnDOT's deadline would be doable.

"I think it's tight," he said. "I think it's going to be a very big challenge, but I think they can get it done." • 612-673-4491 • 612-673-7102

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