October 9, 2008

Four Scotland County Crossings Part of MoDOT’s 800 Better Bridges Project n

Over the next five years the Missouri Department of Transportation will replace more than 800 of the state’s worst bridges. The aggressive plan recently announced by MoDOT Director Pete Rahn will touch all of Missouri’s 114 counties, with Scotland County scheduled to receive four new bridges in that time span.

“Better bridges are coming soon,” said Rahn when the announcement was made.

On September 18th the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission approved plans to improve 802 of Missouri’s lowest rated bridges by 2013, starting with 100 structures that will be under construction early next year.

The four structures in Scotland County scheduled for the project include the bridge spanning the abandoned railroad bridge on Missouri 15 South. Other projects identified in the new program include the bridge on Route H north of Arbela, which spans the South Wyaconda River; the bridge across the North Fork of the Middle Fabius River on Route D, near the Schuyler County line; as well as the bridge across the Little Fox River on Route Z near the Iowa state line.

The Missouri Department of Transportation, though, will manage the Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program differently than the Design-Build-Finance-Maintain contract that was envisioned when the program was launched two years ago.

The Commission decided to conclude the procurement process that had previously identified Missouri Bridge Partners (MBP) as the apparent best-value proposer, citing the turmoil in the financial markets that made the proposal unaffordable, and directed MoDOT to move forward with alternative methods to deliver Safe & Sound.

MoDOT is responsible for 10,276 bridges in the state highway system, the seventh largest total nationwide.

There will be 554 bridge replacements included in a single design-build package to be advertised this fall and awarded in late spring 2009. The remaining 248 bridges to be improved will be contracted using a modified design-bid-build approach, where projects are grouped by type, size or location to accelerate construction schedules.

“Safe & Sound has always been about fixing bad bridges quickly and economically,” Rahn said. “The experience of this process tells us that the design-build-finance-maintain approach is very feasible, but for this particular project, at a time of extreme volatility in the nation’s credit markets, the requirement for private financing made Missouri Bridge Partner’s proposal just too expensive for our budget.”

Under the Missouri Bridge Partners plan, MoDOT would have been required to make annual payments that would have ranged between $65-74 million, depending on interest rates.

“We had budgeted for a $50 million annual payment, using roughly one-third of the federal bridge replacement funds Missouri receives each year,” Rahn said. “At a time when we are faced with declining revenues and increasing costs, the Commission was concerned we might not be able to honor our commitments in MoDOT’s five-year construction program if we went forward at a price over our budget. Keeping our promises is the Commission’s absolute top priority.

MoDOT has spent $15.6 million on development of the Safe & Sound program, an investment that will enable it to have 100 bridge projects under contract by spring, and will also reduce the cost of other contracting options and speed their implementation. Included in the cost to date are stipends paid to MBP and Team United, the other proposing team that was eliminated from consideration by the Commission in December 2007. Those stipends convey ownership of the technical concepts developed by each team to MoDOT for its future use. Additionally, MBP developed bridge plans and conducted surveys and geotechnical investigations in the field under a Limited Notice to Proceed issued by the Commission in June that MoDOT will use to get work under way. MoDOT also located utilities at bridge locations - work that won’t have to be repeated.

Rahn said MoDOT plans to issue bonds to pay for the project with annual payments of approximately $50 million as budgeted previously. With finance charges, it’s estimated that MoDOT’s new plan will be $300-500 million cheaper than the MBP proposal.

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