Colo. Firm to Help Replace Bridge

Sat September 29, 2007 - National Edition

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Minnesota transportation officials tapped a joint team from Colorado and Seattle to build a replacement for the collapsed Interstate 35W bridge, a rich contract that could be worth millions more if the bridge is finished ahead of schedule.

The team of Flatiron Constructors Inc., of Longmont, Colo., and Manson Construction Co., of Seattle, emerged Sept. 19 in a public ceremony to unseal bids from the four contractors competing to build the bridge.

Flatiron/Manson won despite submitting the high bid — $233.8 million — and proposing the longest timetable for the work, 437 days.

But state officials warned before opening the bids that cost alone would not be the deciding factor. They chose the winner based on a formula that balanced speed and cost of construction with other factors, including quality, aesthetics and public relations.

“We might pay a little more, but when we do that, we feel we get a little better approach,” project manager Jon Chiglo said.

The Flatiron/Manson bid was in the range of expected cost, between $200 million and $250 million, to rebuild the bridge. But other bids ranged as low as $176.9 million, and that bid — from C.S. McCrossan Inc. — also came with the shortest construction schedule, just 367 days.

The deal isn’t done yet — state officials and Flatiron/Manson still have to negotiate and sign a final contract. That’s scheduled to happen before Oct. 15 so construction can begin.

Flatiron apparently hasn’t worked for the Minnesota Department of Transportation before, Chiglo said. But he said the company has done comparable work on bridges elsewhere; Flatiron’s Web site notes a fast-track project to replace a pair of Florida freeway bridges destroyed in a hurricane.

Two Florida companies will play key roles as subcontractors — Tallahassee, Fla.-based Figg Bridge Engineers Inc. will design the span, and Johnson Bros., an Orlando, Fla.-based bridge builder with a history of building river crossings in Minneapolis, is listed as a subcontractor.

Linda Figg, president and CEO of Figg Bridge Engineers, spoke briefly to reporters after the bid opening, but said little other than to express excitement. She referred questions to state officials.

Drawings and other details weren’t immediately released. Kevin Gutknecht, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said the data wouldn’t become public until a contract is signed.

Flatiron/Manson faces both risk and reward.

The bridge that collapsed Aug. 1 was one of Minnesota’s busiest, carrying more than 100,000 vehicles over the Mississippi River every day, and the state wants it replaced by the end of 2008. To get it done, they’re dangling as much as $27 million in incentives.

Flatiron/Manson’s proposal would get the bridge built by the end of next year — with a week to spare, if work started by Oct. 15. The companies could earn $200,000 a day for every day they lop off that timetable.

The builder will face more than time pressure, though. Many people have argued that the bridge should have a singular design, and should somehow memorialize the 13 people who died in the collapse.

The other bidders were the teams of Ames Construction Inc. and Lunda Construction Co.; and Walsh Construction Co. and American Bridge Co.

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