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MnDOT is taking a 'hard look' at I-94 bids that exceed estimate.

Byline: Brian Johnson

The $103.9 million apparent low bid from the joint venture of Hoffman Construction and PCI Roads blew past MnDOT's estimate of $75 million to $85 million for the project, which will rebuild and expand 14 miles of I-94 between Monticello and Clearwater. Shafer Contracting, $108.7 million, and Michels Corp., $113.85 million, also put in bids.

The expansion, scheduled to begin in July and end in 2021, is one of three major projects coming up in the I-94 corridor northwest of Minneapolis.

Claudia Dumont, MnDOT project manager, declined Thursday to comment on the letting, though she acknowledged that the bids came in higher than anticipated and that MnDOT will review the bids.

Matt Zeller, executive director of the Concrete Paving Association of Minnesota, said it's hard to pinpoint why there was such a big gulf between the actual bids and the department's estimate, though it's his understanding that the contractors got good prices on concrete.

"I'm not sure if they are going to go back to the drawing board or award it as bid," added Zeller, a former MnDOT assistant concrete engineer. "The numbers were not what MnDOT was hoping for."

As part of the project, crews will reconstruct 14 miles of I-94 between Highways 25 and 24, add a lane in both directions, and build a concrete median barrier on the interstate between Highway 25 and County Road 8, according to MnDOT.

Workers will also add a cable median barrier between Hasty and Clearwater, build a noise wall along the north side of westbound I-94 west of Highway 25, install commercial vehicle weigh-in motion sensors in the pavement and improve drainage.

In the project area, I-94 was constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. MnDOT has completed numerous maintenance and preservation projects over the years, but the upcoming project is designed to be a long-term fix, according to an environmental assessment worksheet.

Assuming the low bid stands, the Hoffman-PCI joint venture is queued up for its second big project in the corridor. In March, the same team submitted a low bid of $71 million to expand I-94 between St. Michael and Albertville. MnDOT's estimate for that project was $65 million.

MnDOT plans to open bids this fall for an estimated $125 million to $140 million I-94 upgrade between Maple Grove and Rogers, the third and final leg of improvements in the 40-mile corridor between Maple Grove and Clearwater.

Together, the projects are designed to reduce congestion, improve safety, create a smoother ride, extend the life of the highway, improve the movement of freight, and prepare the corridor for growth, according to MnDOT.

The I-94 work is funded in part by the state's Corridors of Commerce program. The program benefits projects that improve the movement of freight and increase capacity on congested highways.

Also in the works in the corridor is a $28 million interchange project south of Brockton Lane near Dayton. That project, which includes trails and sidewalks, is scheduled for construction in 2020 and 2021.


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Publication:Finance and Commerce
Date:May 23, 2019
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