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Wisconsin bidders team up to chase I-94

Sean Ryan

Hoffman Construction Co. and Trierweiler Construction Inc. are teaming up to bid for Interstate 94 reconstruction contracts because they need more bonding to compete for the big jobs.

The team, I-94 Contractors LLC, lost in its first round of I-94 bidding to Chicago-based Walsh Construction Co., which is bigger than both firms and has a larger bonding capacity.

“The project was a real large project,” said Jim Hoffman, president of Hoffman Construction, Black River Falls. “It had an initial estimate of $60 (million) to $70 million, and it was all bonded work, so we had bonding to consider.

“Neither of our companies wanted to burn up all of our bonding capacity.”

The contract to rebuild the County Trunk Highway C interchange in Kenosha County and pave a stretch of I-94 in the county went to Walsh for $60.2 million. Walsh representatives did not respond to calls for comment.

I-94 Contractors bid only on the Kenosha County job, but Hoffman said the joint venture likely will return in upcoming lettings.

“We’re going to continue to plug away,” he said.

Without the teamwork approach, that Kenosha project, plus a $20 million I-94 job Hoffman bid for but didn’t win, would have eaten up much of the company’s bonding capacity and limited its ability to bid on other WisDOT jobs this season, Hoffman said.

The $60 million I-94 contract presented a lot of risk and bonding responsibility for any Wisconsin contractor, said Mike Zignego, secretary treasurer of Waukesha-based Zignego Co. Inc., which bid $66.3 million for the job. He said Zignego had to work with its bonding company to come up with the capacity to bid on that job and a $19.6 million contract for I-94 in Racine County. Zignego won the Racine project.

Considering the timeline to complete the Kenosha County project, a contractor could lose a lot of money through penalties if something goes wrong and the job falls behind schedule.

“Everything has to go perfectly,” Zignego said of a large project such as the one in Kenosha County. “If you don’t get done by the Dec. 1st deadline, you would have to pay for a whole year.”

Should I-94 Contractors win a bid, the joint venture between Hoffman, an earthmover, and Marshfield-based Trierweiler, a paver, also will help the companies deal with federal rules requiring prime contractors perform at least 30 percent of the work on projects, Hoffman said. Road builders in Wisconsin tend to specialize in a certain type of work, so on some contracts, such as the Racine County I-94 job, it can be difficult to fill the 30 percent requirement within one trade, he said.

Zignego Co., as a concrete paver, usually does not have trouble filling its 30 percent quota, Zignego said. He said the Racine County job puts Zignego in good shape for the construction season because the company’s schedule is filling up, and it does not need to chase huge jobs with higher risk and bigger bonding requirements.

“We’re looking to fill niches now,” Zignego said, but added the company will be back for WisDOT’s next lettings on May 12 and May 27. “We’re looking. We’ve got plans for the next two lettings, and we’re looking over those.”

Related Story: WisDOT preps for I-94 dispute resolution

Related Story: WisDOT preps for I-94 dispute resolution

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