La. 1 toll project comes in $98 million over estimate
Thursday, June 30, 2005 at 12:00:00 AM

BATON ROUGE – The low bid for the first phase of the La. 1 toll project, which will rebuild a portion of the only road leading to Port Fourchon and the barrier island of Grand Isle, has come in $98 million over the estimated cost, the Department of Transportation and Development announced today.

            The department received bids from two contractor groups at the bid letting  Wednesday morning for Phase I, which will replace the old bridge over Bayou Lafourche at Leeville and build an elevated section to Port Fouchon.

            The James Construction/Flatiron LLC was the apparent low bidder at $251,860,090. The Massman/Trailer Brothers LLC group was the second bidder at $254,599,496.32.

            DOTD Secretary Johnny B. Bradberry said three separate estimates were conducted since the beginning of the year – one by DOTD personnel and the other two by Wilbur Smith & Associates and SJB Group Inc.  All projected estimated costs came within 1 percent of each other – at around $154 million for Phase I.

            Bradberry expressed disappointment both in the number of contractors that bid and in the considerably higher pricetag.

“Needless to say, we’re very disappointed at this latest development,” Bradberry said. “Our next step is to compare the differences between the unit prices in the bids and in the estimates to determine where the greatest departure exists from previous estimates.”

Bradberry emphasized, however, that DOTD “is not wavering in its commitment to build this bridge before 2009. This dilemma will just force the department to reevaluate the department’s approach in moving this important project forward.”

            The secretary said DOTD will await the results of the comparison before commenting on the variance and on what the department’s response will be.

            Michael Bridges, DOTD undersecretary, said he suspects that costs spiked because construction material costs have increased. Another reason, he said, could be the volume of bridgework under way in Southern states at present, such as the repair of bridges in the Florida Panhandle.

            The department has worked for the past three years with the La. 1 Coalition and other statewide and local stakeholders on the La. 1 toll project. DOTD signed an agreement May 19 with the U.S. Department of Transportation for a $66 million loan from the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or TIFIA, the first for the state, to help fund construction. Other revenue sources include state, local and other federal highway funds.