JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) The state reopened bids Nov. 24 on a scaled-back project to build a gravel road part way up the proposed route of the Lynn Canal Highway, after the original bids proved much higher than expected.
State officials said the purpose of the 18-ft. (5.5 m) wide road is to gain access to areas of heavy construction for building the more permanent highway.
The original proposal included six bridges and approximately 20 mi. (32 km) of gravel track between Echo Cove and Antler River, approximately 40 mi. (64 km) northwest of Juneau.
The original bids were opened Nov. 22. The lowest of the two, from Kiewit Pacific Corp. of Anchorage, came in $21 million more than the state’s $30 million estimate. The second bid of $66 million, from Southeast Road Builders of Haines, was more than twice the state’s estimate.
The state dropped plans for two of the bridges over the Antler and Lace Rivers and asked contractors to resubmit their bids, said Department of Transportation (DOT) Spokeswoman Mary Siroky.
“When we looked at the bids, that was where the cost was. So we will back off that and barge in the equipment,” she said.
Siroky said Southeast Road Builders’ revised bid was $31.9 million while Kiewit Corp. bid $32.4 million.
The project is expected to be awarded in December and construction is expected to begin in early April.
DOT asked contractors to bid on the construction even before the state has the final permits from the Army Corps of Engineers.
The plan has drawn criticism from opponents of the road.
Southeast Alaska Conservation Council warned the state could be liable for paying the contractor the cost of materials and equipment if the permits don’t come through.
The group also contended that the gravel road is independent of the larger Lynn Canal Highway project and should go through its own review and permitting.
Siroky, however, said it is simply the first phase in building a permanent road. The proposed 50 mi. (80 km) highway would link Juneau and northern Lynn Canal communities via shuttle ferries from the Katzehin Delta across from Haines.
Construction is expected to begin in early April.
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