Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

State opens bids on 25 highway jobs

- NOEL OMAN

The Arkansas Highway and Transporta­tion Department on Wednesday opened low bids totaling $238.3 million on more than two dozen constructi­on projects, including the long-awaited one to replace the White River bridge on Interstate 40 between Monroe and Prairie counties.

Johnson Bros. Corp., a Southland Co., of Roanoke, Texas, submitted a bid of $77,569,482.80 to replace the span, a project that the contractor said would take about two years.

The bridge replacemen­t was the most expensive project in Wednesday’s bid openings.

The second-most expensive involves rebuilding a section of Interstate 440 between Bankhead Drive

in Little Rock and the I-440 bridge over the Arkansas River. The low bid was $33.8 million from Kiewit Infrastruc­ture South Co. of Fort Worth.

Other significan­t projects on which bids were opened Wednesday included ones to widen Arkansas 1 north from U.S. 49 in Phillips and Lee counties; work on the Vilonia bypass on U.S. 64 in Faulkner and White counties; and work on a section of Interstate 30 between U.S. 67 and Arkansas 108 in Miller County.

Wednesday’s letting was the third time that the department has opened bids on one project in Conway.

Rogers Group Inc. of Nashville, Tenn., again was the low bidder — at $9.4 million — on a project that includes building two traffic circles at Interstate 40 and Dave Ward Drive, and widening Dave Ward Drive for a half mile. Rogers Group was one of three bidders on the Conway project.

Johnson Bros. was one of four bidders on the I-40 bridge project.

Previous recent bidding sessions resulted in some projects receiving only one or two bids, and sometimes even none. The lack of bids raised concern that some of the department’s estimated prices on projects were too high.

The Highway Department rejected bids that came in higher than project estimates, and the projects were rebid. That was the case with some projects submitted for bid in October and December.

Wednesday’s letting was added to the department’s calender because of those rebiddings and because some projects in earlier bid sessions were postponed over uncertaint­y about federal funding for them.

As with the December bid letting, Wednesday’s was divided into morning and afternoon sessions to give contractor­s two opportunit­ies to submit bids on projects.

In the morning session, which included the I-40 bridge project, low bids worth $144,248,765.82 were offered on 12 total projects. The afternoon session resulted in low bids worth $94,043,708.84 on 13 projects.

Department officials must review all of the low bids for accuracy before the bids become final. That review can take several days.

The bidders on the I-40 White River bridge project included Massman Constructi­on Co. of Overland Park, Kan., which is building the replacemen­t for the Broadway Bridge on the Arkansas River between downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock.

But Massman’s bid of $116.7 million was the second-lowest on the White River bridge project. Flatiron Constructi­ons Inc. of Broomfield, Colo., bid $125.5 million on the project, and Conti Enterprise­s Inc. of Edison, N.J., bid $198.7 million.

The Arkansas Highway Commission authorized replacing the 48-year-old bridge a few months after May 2011’s record rainfall and when White River floodwater­s covered the east approaches to the bridge for several days.

But, even before that flooding, engineers had been working on a design to replace the bridge, according to state highway officials.

In 2011, a $53 million bid was awarded for work on a 10-mile stretch of the interstate approachin­g both ends of the span.

Wednesday’s bid-letting includes replacing two bridges over the Cache River with ones that are a foot higher, replacing two overpasses in the area, and resurfacin­g some lanes and shoulders.

Traffic disruption will be minimal for much of the bridge project, said Danny Straessle, a department spokesman. Vehicles will use the existing bridge while the new bridge is being built next to it, Straessle said. Traffic will be affected once the new bridge is completed and the contractor ties it into I-40, he said.

About 26,000 vehicles a day travel on I-40 in that vicinity. More than 50 percent of those vehicles are tractor-trailer rigs, according to department data. The area sees frequent traffic accidents, often resulting in lengthy delays.

The Arkansas 1 project in Phillips and Lee counties will widen the highway from two lanes to five lanes in a 7-mile section north from U.S. 49. Chancellor Bros. LLC of Cordova, Tenn., one of the three contractor­s bidding on the project, submitted the lowest bid at $24.6 million.

Rogers Group’s $21.4 million bid was the lowest of five submitted to work on extending the Vilonia bypass east on U.S. 64 in Faulkner and White counties.

Interstate Highway Constructi­on Inc. of Englewood, Colo., submitted the lowest bid, $17.2 million, on a project for a section of I-30 in Miller County, besting the bids from two other contractor­s.

A project to repaint several bridges in the department’s District 9 — which encompasse­s Baxter, Benton, Boone, Carroll, Madison, Marion, Newton and Searcy counties in north and Northwest Arkansas — attracted 10 bidders, including six from contractor­s in Tarpon Springs, Fla.

Gulf Coast Contractin­g LLC submitted the lowest bid at $1,580,994.44.

In the morning session, which included the I-40 bridge project, low bids worth $144,248,765.82 were offered on 12 total projects. The afternoon session resulted in low bids worth $94,043,708.84 on 13 projects.

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