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MnDOT gets low bid of $239M for I-35W work

State officials used 'best value' approach to select construction team

Interstate 35 in the Twin Cities.

Interstate 35 in the Twin Cities.

BridgeTower Media Newswires

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Three of the area’s most prolific highway contractors are poised to team up on the Interstate 35W and Lake Street access project in Minneapolis, an ambitious and complicated overhaul designed to improve safety, traffic control and transit service in the I-35W corridor in the city.

Black River Falls-based Lunda Construction and two companies out of Minnesota – Ames Construction and Shafer Contracting – submitted a joint bid on Wednesday of $239 million for the project, the lowest among the four teams that vied for the work.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s estimate was $240 million.

“I think it was pretty competitive,” said Scott Pedersen, MnDOT project manager for the job.

MnDOT took a “best value” approach to selecting a construction team. Besides looking at cost, MnDOT evaluated contractors on a “technical score,” which took into account the contractors’ personnel, use of targeted businesses, plans to minimize lane closings and other considerations.

The Ames-Lunda-Shafer joint venture had the best technical score (989.23) and the lowest price. Other bidders were C.S. McCrossan ($248 million, 979.78 technical score); the team of Black River Falls, Wisconsin-based Hoffman Construction and Waukesha, Wisconsin-based Zenith Tech ($288.5 million, 965.24); and Kiewit Corp. of Omaha ($376.96 million, 968.21).

As part of the project, crews will construct 18 bridges, rehabilitate four others, put in new pavement and build new lanes where drivers will be able to use a MnPASS to electronically pay tolls charged on a 2.5-mile stretch between 43rd Street and 15th Street in Minneapolis.

Elsewhere, workers will build a transit station at I-35W and Lake Street for the $150 million Orange Line, a 17-mile bus rapid-transit line that will link downtown Minneapolis to Burnsville.

Crews will convert a “dynamic shoulder lane” on northbound I-35W to a permanent MnPASS toll lane, and build a new MnPASS lane on southbound I-35W between 26th Street and 46th Street, among other projects. A dynamic shoulder lane is a shoulder that can be used by traffic only during peak travel hours, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Two new I-35W exit ramps will make it easier for motorists to get to the Lake Street business district from the interstate. Workers will build the ramps at 28th Street from northbound I-35W, and Lake Street from southbound I-35W.

Even in the best circumstances, building bridges and tearing up pavement on and around highly traveled interstates is hard. But this project will be especially difficult because of the corridor leaves little room for the work, Pedersen said.

Pedersen said the latest work on I-35 is even more complicated than the $288 million I-35W-Crosstown project, which included the reconstruction of six miles of highway, the erecting of 26 bridges and the construction of a bus rapid-transit station, among other things. This time around, he said, there will be even less room to manage traffic.

The I-35W Lake Street project is expected to take place over four construction seasons, wrapping up in 2021.

During construction, one of MnDOT’s primary objectives will be to keep an open line of communication with affected residents and businesses, Pedersen said. The contractors were scored, in part, on how they intend to soften any consequences for the neighborhood.

The project won’t be pain-free for commuters and those living nearby. Even so, “we can do a good job of communicating what those impacts will be and addressing issues that may arise during construction,” Pedersen said.

Matt Zeller, executive director of the Concrete Paving Association of Minnesota, said it seems that MnDOT got some good numbers for the project.

“If you look at Ames individually, Lunda individually and Shafer individually, they have all done a lot of work in the Twin Cities metro,” he said. “They’ve done a lot of complicated work around town. My guess it gave them a leg up in putting a bid together and their technical score. They had a darn good technical score.”

“With the team they got and the numbers they got, everybody should be happy,” Zeller added.

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