Planning delays for the Winona bridge project have led state officials to try a never-before-used method for contracting that skips competitive bidding.
In a best-case scenario, the bridge may be finished by 2020, Mn/DOT officials announced. Project leaders hope that construction can begin between July 2014 and March 2015 and the new bridge will be ready for traffic by fall 2016. “July is very aggressive,” Ward said. “If everything goes perfectly, that’s the earliest we could start.”
The starting date could be much later. While funding, property acquisition, and design issues could cause delays, Mn/DOT officials noted that even if everything else is ready, the elements may delay the project. Dealing with high river levels has been a struggle for the Dresbach bridge project, officials noted. “If we’re not able to start until March and there’s high water, we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature,” explained Ward. “If we can’t start in July of next year, that pushes that schedule out,” he added.
After last Thursday’s announcement, Winona area residents can expect to wait at least five years after construction begins before four lanes span the channel and crews clear both bridges for use.
To move along the design and construction phases, Mn/DOT will use a contracting process known as construction manager general contractor (CMGC). It will be Mn/DOT’s first ever CMGC project. In the CMGC project process, Mn/DOT will select a contractor to work with the agency during the design process; that contractor then gives a price for and completes the project. Typically, governments and state agencies bid out contracting work to keep prices down. Under the CMGC process the contract is not bid competitively. The lone contractor prices the work. The main advantage of that method, Ward said, is that by having a contractor who already knows the project in detail and by skipping the public bidding process, a project can go from design to construction more quickly. “It allows us to phase or package the project in a more streamlined manner,” Ward explained.
According to Ward, local input is driving the decision to pursue that expedited, less-competitive option. “A good share of the feedback [from the community] had been, ‘Get going on the project,’” Ward said.
The Winona City Council is expected to have a public hearing on the design plans in August, then vote to approve or disapprove the plans to move ahead with construction. By law, Mn/DOT must obtain a council vote of confidence, as well as other state and federal agency approval.