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Contractor's workshop slated

Later this month, contractors will get their first thorough glimpse of the immense scope of work that will go into the reconstruction of the Marquette Interchange in Milwaukee.

The state Department of Transportation has scheduled a contractor’s workshop for Sept. 25 at the Amtrak Station in Milwaukee. The all-day affair, hosted jointly with engineering consultant Milwaukee Transportation Partners, should provide some preliminary business details for companies seeking to compete for a slice of the biggest public works project in state history.

According to WisDOT, the $810 million job will carry some mammoth components, including:

  • 3.9 miles of freeway construction

  • 28 ramps
  • 57 bridges totaling more than 2.1 million square feet of bridge deck
  • 4.3 miles of retaining walls.

Among the topics that WisDOT expects to discuss are contract packaging, scheduling, major work items, staging and disadvantaged-business participation. Don Reinbold, WisDOT’s project manager, said agency officials also want to talk to contractors about buried utilities, traffic control and public involvement.

Letting schedule tentative

Details on how the project will be let are still under discussion. In May, WisDOT submitted a tentative schedule to the Legislature as part of its consideration of the state budget bill.

In July 2004, the agency expects to bid out the work on the interchange’s north leg. That portion is estimated to cost $148 million.

In November 2004, WisDOT will let the $113 million west leg phase, to be followed in July 2005 by the $112 million south leg. In making $80 million in cuts to an earlier $890 million project cost, Gov. Jim Doyle said WisDOT would trim a combined $53 million from the south and west legs by deferring some portions and limiting the widening of some ramps.

Under the tentative schedule, the project’s largest portion, known as the “core,” would go out for bid in August 2005. That work is expected to cost $437 million.

The state Department of Transportation has scheduled a contractor’s workshop for Sept. 25 at the Amtrak Station in Milwaukee.

WisDOT officials have said they want to advertise the contractor’s workshop in national publications to draw as many companies as possible to the project. The state’s competitive-bid law doesn’t play favorites with in-state companies, giving any qualified contractor a chance to secure part of one of the biggest projects in the country.

Size of packages key

One question contractors are likely to ask WisDOT is whether the agency plans to bid out the four major components in single, large packages or break them up into smaller pieces. Smaller, more numerous bids would seemingly favor Wisconsin contractors that might not have the resources to compete with larger firms that work around the country, industry observers have said.

Reinbold said that will be a critical discussion point at the workshop, and it’s possible WisDOT will base its decision on what contractors have to say.

“We’re still looking at the packages and how to put them together,” he said. “We need to get feedback from the industry.”

Last month, WisDOT Secretary Frank Busalacchi told state legislators that the agency wants to direct as much work as possible to state companies. To that end, engineers chose steel bridge spans over an earlier concrete design; Busalacchi noted that the nation’s largest manufacturer of steel bridges, PDM Bridge LLC, is based in Wisconsin.

Tom Walker, executive director of the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association, also told state lawmakers that he expects heavy out-of-state competition on the project. But he said that the state’s contractors have the capacity to complete the job.

He added that Edward Kraemer & Sons Inc., Plain, is taking charge of one of the nation’s biggest bridge projects, the Woodrow Wilson span outside Washington, D.C.

Jeremy Harrell can be reached at 608-260-8570 or by email.

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