DOVER, DE (AP) State officials have scrapped the bid process for a proposed bridge over the Indian River Inlet after all but one of the pre-qualified bidders dropped out and the lone remaining company submitted an “unacceptable” bid, transportation secretary Nathan Hayward said Oct. 3.
Hayward told members of the legislature’s capital budget committee that the Department of Transportation (DOT) will look at breaking up the bridge project into component parts in an effort to attract more bidders. The transportation department also will consider alternative designs for the bridge, which currently is envisioned as a huge, cable-supported single arch with a main span of approximately 1,000 ft. (304.8m).
“We’ll take a look at alternative designs, if we have to, that may or may not be seen as easier to build,” said Hayward, who in the past has defended plans for the massive arch amid criticism that a less expensive design should be adopted.
“This bridge, no matter what it looks like, is going to be very expensive,” he said.
Nevertheless, Hayward said he was unwilling to entertain a bid from Indiana-based Traylor Brothers Inc. that was at least $40 million higher than the transportation department’s current estimate of approximately $125 million. That estimate is for the bridge itself and does not include additional items such as road work and utilities, which bring the total estimated project cost to more than $200 million.
As of June, roughly $23 million already had been spent on the project.
While maintaining that the current bridge carrying beach traffic along State Route 1 between Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach must be replaced because of tidal erosion, Hayward said he is not willing to spend money foolishly.
“We’ve got to have this … but we’re not going to go out and pay what I consider to be an exorbitant amount of money to one contractor who is simply trying to be opportunistic,” he told lawmakers.
Chris Traylor, chief executive officer of Traylor Brothers Inc., the sole remaining bidder left after six other pre-qualified bidders dropped out, did not immediately return a telephone call Oct. 3.
Rep. Roger Roy, R-Wilmington, co-chair of the joint committee on capital improvements, agreed with Hayward’s decision to halt the process and go back to the drawing board.
Hayward blamed problems in the bidding process on escalating costs for labor and material, thousands of pet projects included by members of Congress in the new federal transportation bill, and Hurricane Katrina. The special earmarks in the transportation bill and Katrina’s devastation have left contractors free to bid on other projects “that will be easier to do and will have a much higher profit margin,” he said.