July 19, 2011
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UPDATE: NCDOT opens bids for Bonner Bridge replacement


Bids on a contract to build a new bridge over Oregon Inlet were officially opened  on Tuesday, July 19, as the long-overdue project continues unrestrained so far by a recently-filed lawsuit by environmental groups that want to stop it.

Three design-build teams submitted proposals to the state Department of Transportation ranging from about $216 million to $307 million, before adjustments were made that reflected technical cost-saving measures.

Greer Beaty, NCDOT director of communications, said the complex, highly detailed bid submission process ensures that the top three competitors all have what it takes to replace the aging Bonner Bridge with a short 2.7 mile span parallel to the current bridge. 

“By that point, you know that no matter whose bid is highest or lowest,” she said, “you know you’re getting a quality product.”
Thanks to decreased costs for construction materials and other factors, the proposals overall are less than the original DOT projected estimate of $300 million.  Currently, DOT estimates it would cost $241.6 million to build the bridge. 

In general, Beaty said, all DOT contracts have come down about 10 percent in the last year or two.

The team ---a contractor and a lead design firm --- and their original bids were:

  • PCL Civil Constructors Inc., based in Tampa, Fla.; and HDR Engineering Inc. of the Carolinas, based in Raleigh: $215,777,000.
  • Skanska USA Civil Southeast Inc., of Virginia Beach; and Parsons Transportation Group, of Raleigh: $279,850,000.
  • Oregon Inlet Constructors LLC, of Glen Burnie, Md.; and Figg Bridge Engineering Inc, of Exton, Pa.: $306,845,000.

But the raw bids are only part of the equation in the contract award, Beaty said. A list of complicated technical innovations, cost- and time-saving measures, safety precautions and engineering details in each proposal are given a value that creates a score, which is then used to adjust the bid.
The new adjusted bids were: PCL, $194,199,300; Skanska, $279,850,000; Oregon Inlet, $258,544, 450.
Some examples of the points out of 100 assigned for line items that were factored in the adjusted bids, according to DOT spokeswoman Dara Demi, include 11 points for team management: how the work will be done, how it will be integrated together, how it will be organized and flow; 20 points for quality management: inspection and monitoring of the project, the type of materials, the way it is engineered; and 15 points for schedules and milestones: when permits are issued and stages of construction begin and are completed,  including demolition of the old bridge.

Teams making proposals were required to plan to use, at minimum, the same components mixed in the extra-strong concrete that was used to build the Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge that opened in 2002, Demi said. The state's longest bridge, the 5-mile Virginia Dare Bridge crosses Croatan Sound between Manteo and Manns Harbor.

When it was being built, engineers had said that some of its features were learned from the design planned at that time for the Bonner Bridge replacement.

Demi said that, for the first time in a major bridge replacement project, NCDOT is requiring that stainless steel reinforcements be used in the new bridge's concrete structure, rather than the black reinforced steel that is more susceptible to corrosion.

Demi said that, based on past practices, it is likely that PCL will be awarded the contract, although a final review must still be completed before the decision is made. It is expected by next week.  The contract that is awarded, she said, will be for the amount of the chosen team’s unadjusted bid.

Construction is scheduled to begin, at the earliest, in late 2012 and be opened for traffic in spring 2015.

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on July 1 by the Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center,  included a request for an injunction to stop the project immediately, but Beaty said that DOT will continue work unless the court orders them to quit.

The most recent action in the matter extended the deadline until Sept. 6 for DOT to answer the complaint.

“Our hope is that we will be able to continue to move forward,” Beaty said.

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