Adopting a new contracting strategy for the main partof the Woodrow Wilson bridge Maryland's State Highway Administration will advertise three contracts for the bridge superstructure. The first, covering the bascule portions of the twin, six-lane spans, is to appear July 2. In announcing the plan on June 20, State Highway Administrator Parker F. Williams said the state's engineering estimate for the bascule contract ranges from $140 million to $170 million. Bid opening is set for Nov. 7.

(Photo by Potomace Crossing Consultants)

The state originally planned one contract for the superstructure of the Potomac River crossing, but it was forced to shift gears in December when the lone bid it received totaled nearly $860 million, or more than 70% above the upper end of its $450 million to $500 million engineering estimate range.

In January, SHA rejected the lone bid, from a team of Kiewit Construction Co., Tidewater Construction Corp., and Clark Construction Group Inc.

Williams says he hopes that the contract repackaging will draw more bidders and keep prices down. But he concedes that the change in plans has cost the project about 11 months.

The other two contracts will be advertised in October, with bid openings in mid-February. One contract will be for the over-water Maryland approaches of the twin span; the other will cover the over-land approaches from the Virginia side. Williams declined to give estimates for those contracts.

Williams said, "We think that with all of the efforts that we have undertaken so far...we're going to be able to bring this project in within sight of the original estimates that we had on the project." The Federal Highway Administration was comfortable enough with Maryland's revised strategy that it gave a green light to the plan for the first contract.

The superstructure is the largest element of the $2.4-billion project, which also includes upgrades to four major interchanges, two each in Maryland and Virginia, leading up to the bridge.