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New bridge on Hwy. 61 in Hastings is finally up for bids

The request for proposals (RFP) for the construction of a new Highway 61 bridge is now in the hands of potential builders, and the document includes a previously unreleased cost cap of $220 million for the actual construction of the bridge.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation released the RFP Dec. 13 to the three design-build contractor teams it approved for the project in November. The document is also posted on MnDOT's website and is open for the public to view.

The RFP includes MnDOT's requirements and specifications for the bridge project, which the contractor teams will use when drawing up their bids. It also explains how their bids will be judged by MnDOT. The RFP has a cost cap of $220 million, which means the contractors must submit proposals at or below that cost.

MnDOT is asking for bids to be returned by May 3, but that date is not set in stone. MnDOT Project Manager Steve Kordosky will be meeting with the contractors Thursday and Friday to discuss the RFP and the timeline. If the contractors say May 3 doesn't give them enough time to put together a bid, MnDOT will adjust the date.

The document includes both the cable and arch bridge designs, and Kordosky said the first task contractor teams will have to tackle is choosing which bridge is the most feasible to build.

That decision will depend on a variety of factors, not just the cost cap, Kordosky said. One is the degree of difficulty for one bridge versus the other, and the schedule (MnDOT is requiring the project be completed and the bridge be open by fall 2013).

The contractor will also consider geographical constraints, such as the staging area that will be used (the Flint Hills Nature Preserve to the northwest of the Mississippi River public boat launch), which has been underwater during flood season three times in the past 20 years. Aside from temporary closures, the river channel has to remain open to barge traffic during construction, which will be another factor contractors will consider, Kordosky said.

While the cost cap for the construction of the bridge is $220 million, the total cost of the new bridge will be closer to $250 million, when you take into account all the studies and work that's already gone into planning for the new bridge, and the engineering oversight MnDOT will provide to the contractors throughout the project.

Construction on the new bridge is planned to begin this summer. The three contractor teams MnDOT approved that will submit bids to build the bridge are Flatiron/Kiewit, Lunda/Ames, and PCL/Edward Kraemer and Sons. Kordosky said it's standard for contractors team up with one another and seek out other companies that may have complementing specialties. It's done in an attempt to form the strongest team possible, he said.