BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development plans to re-bid the La. 1 road and bridge project in multiple phases to reduce costs and encourage competition among contractors.
DOTD Undersecretary Michael Bridges outlined the details of the agency’s plans during Friday’s meeting of the State Bond Commission.
La. 1 is a two-lane road that serves as the only evacuation route for lower Lafourche Parish and for Grand Isle. Also, the highway is the only route to access the nation’s only offshore oil port. The road carries about 1,000 large trucks a day, is prone to flooding and must be replaced.
DOTD received bids on June 29 to replace the existing roadway with a new, elevated road that includes a new bridge at Leeville. Those bids were rejected because the lowest bid was $98 million above DOTD’s estimated cost, which was $153 million.
Since then, DOTD engineers and financial managers and officials from the Federal Highway Administration, Port Fourchon and the LA 1 Coalition have analyzed why there was such a discrepancy between the estimated cost and bids. Portions of the project are being redesigned to lower costs, and marketplace factors are being considered to determine what the new estimated cost will be.
Factors identified thus far that increased the project cost include but are not limited to:
- An aggressive construction completion schedule that forced contractors to include in their bids late payments to DOTD if the project were not completed by August 2008. The contractors also included overtime payments in their bids to try to meet the deadline.
- The stipulation of a particular concrete component that necessitated contractors’ using a sole-sourced supplier, who already is producing components at or near maximum capacity for a Florida project.
- A low unemployment rate in the south Lafourche area that drove up labor costs.
- Lack of competition from contractors who may have considered the project to be too large for them to feasibly construct.
- A relatively robust construction industry in Louisiana that drove up the cost of the project.
- The remote location of Port Fourchon that makes transportation of equipment, material and manpower more expensive.
Bridges explained that the project now will be let in multiple stages between November 2005 and February 2006. DOTD managers are still analyzing the effect the material, design and phased construction changes will have on the estimated cost and construction schedule.