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Losing Bridge Bidders Spell Out Reasons for Protest

Wed October 10, 2007 - Midwest Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

ST. PAUL (AP) Two losing bidders for the Interstate 35W bridge replacement fleshed out their protest of the state’s contract awarding procedure on Sept. 25, saying transportation officials penalized them for proposing steel bridges instead of one made of concrete.

A lawyer for C.S. McCrossan and the joint venture of Ames Construction and Lunda Construction said the Minnesota Department of Transportation had an “undisclosed demand” for a concrete bridge, but the emphasis on quickly and cost-effectively replacing the collapsed freeway bridge encouraged them to propose using steel.

“It turned out not to be reliable guidance,” said a letter from Minneapolis attorney Dean Thomson.

The letter claims that steel designs led to the two local companies scoring lower on a technical evaluation than the winning team, Flatiron Constructors of Colorado and Manson Construction of Seattle. The technical scores put Flatiron’s proposal over the top, even though it was the most expensive and tied for the longest construction period.

MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutknecht declined to comment on specific complaints outlined in the letter, but he defended the bidding as a fair and legal process.

“We’re not going to debate it like that,” Gutknecht said. “We’ll let the process take its course.”

Thomson’s letter also criticized the use of public relations as a factor in the technical scores, saying state law doesn’t authorize that. He also said the transportation agency limited penalties for missing the rebuild deadline — from an original fine of $200,000 for every late day, which was later capped at 135 days, after which the daily penalty would drop to $3,500.

The two losing bidders have demanded release of data about the technical scores for the bridge bids, but MnDOT won’t give out the information before a contract is signed. Thomson’s letter said the protest procedure illegally shields the transportation agency from judicial review.

Gutknecht said the protest would be resolved within “a few days or a couple of weeks,” and the transportation agency is still on schedule to sign a contract with Flatiron by the end of the month.

Flatiron spokeswoman Christie DeLuca wouldn’t comment on the protest.

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