As work on 35W bridge proceeds, so does lawsuit

  • Article by: JIM FOTI
  • Star Tribune
  • July 17, 2008 - 11:35 PM

Transportation officials who evaluated the four proposals for the Interstate 35W bridge did not fully read the project's requirements before issuing their ratings, allege new documents submitted in a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the firms now building the bridge.

The suit, filed last fall by two plaintiffs with ties to Minnesota's construction industry, is proceeding even though the bridge is likely to be open to traffic before the case is resolved.

In documents submitted Thursday as part of an effort to nullify the state's $234 million contract with the Flatiron-Manson construction team, lawyers for the two plaintiffs say they have taken depositions from key players in the contract selection process, including Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, who served as transportation commissioner until February, and Jon Chiglo, MnDOT's manager for the bridge project.

The documents argue, among other things, that MnDOT broke state law by issuing ambiguous requirements for the project, scoring the proposals capriciously and allowing the winning team to go outside the project's right of way while prohibiting two other teams -- Ames/Lunda and C.S. McCrossan -- from doing so.

MnDOT declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

A hearing on a request for a temporary injunction is set for mid-August, said Dean Thomson, a lawyer for plaintiffs Scott Sayer and Wendell Phillippi. The case is scheduled to go to trial in December. Flatiron representatives have said they expect the bridge to be open to traffic between mid-September and mid-October.

Thomson said the goal is not to stop work on the bridge but rather to have the work done under a contract that isn't illegal. If the suit succeeds, he said, the plaintiffs could seek to get upwards of $50 million returned to public coffers.

Jim Foti • 612-673-4491

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