By JACK WEATHERLY
The Mississippi Department of Transportation has rejected all design-build proposals submitted for the Interstate 55 project that is from the I- 20 interchange and Byram.
“After reviewing bids received April 17, it was determined the lowest bid had several major errors and could not be awarded,” MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath said Friday in a news release. “The other bids greatly exceeded the state’s estimate and were not viable options.”
The lowest bid for the redesign and completion of the widening of the 7.5-mile stretch was $103.8 million from W.G. Yates & Sons of Philadelphia.
Others who submitted bids were Aberdeen-based Eutaw Construction Co., $165.1 million and T.L. Wallace Construction Inc. of Columbia, $169.9 million. James Construction of Baton Rouge was awarded the original $94 million construction contract, and had been free to submit another bid for the design-build approach, but chose not to.
The “large disparity” among the bidders “indicates contractor risk was the major influence in inflating the bids.”
Bids on what is called the design-build approach were received April 17. The method means that the designer and builder would work together to avoid mistakes, such as the design error that forced the department to halt work on the stretch in January.
Yet McGrath said in the release that “we will use what we learned through the design-build process to develop new plans in a conventional, competitive bid process open to all bidders.”
Construction for the remaining work will be separated into two phases. Priority for phase one is to open all exit ramps as soon as possible and improve travel safety by moving traffic to the outside, away from the current head-to-head configuration. The contract for phase one will be let in June with completion anticipated by the end of the year.
During phase one construction, phase two plans will be reviewed for accuracy and prepared for the final project, the department said.
The current maintenance contract for this project will continue, the release stated. MDOT maintenance crews are working to reopen the State Street exit within the next couple of weeks. All closed ramps are being evaluated to reopen with one or two exit ramps possibly opening before the start of phase one.
Those with businesses along I-55 in Byram will still have to put up with the disruption of their livelihoods for longer than had been planned. Initially, the work was to be completed by the end of 2015.
Byram Mayor Richard White said earlier that the work was causing a hardship on businesses.
While the design flaw brought a halt to the project, it was also discovered that an excessive amount of Yazoo clay had been dumped on the apron of the roadway during initial construction in the 1970s.
That meant that the excess clay will have to be excavated and removed. Also the department will conduct soil boring farther out from the roadbed in future projects, McGrath said. The clay is known for its instability.
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