The bad news is that the low bid submitted Dec. 8 came in about $90 million above the New Jersey Dept. of Transportation’s estimate.

On Dec. 20, NJDOT rejected all the bids.

“It’s considered way over the estimate,” says Martin Biazzo, who was in charge of taking the bids at the department. “Management is just reviewing the whole thing. DOT wants to build it but has to rethink the whole thing.”

NJDOT had has plenty of reasons to want to build the project. The existing Route 52 Causeway Bridge, connecting Ocean City and Somers Point, consists of four concrete bridges that are 70 years old and are near the end of their service life. Two of the bridges are drawbridges that frequently must be opened.

According to NJDOT’s website, the bidding was close. A joint venture of Clermont, N.J.-based Agate Construction Co. and Watsonville., Calif-based Granite Construction Co. bid $243,405,710.55. Right behind that venture at $244,950,656.33 was a joint venture of Perini Corp., Framingham, Mass., and Sylmar, Calif.-based Tutor-Saliba Corp.. The third bidder was George Harms Construction Co., Farmingdale, N.J., at $267,378,269.27.

The replacement was designed as a two-mile continuous bridge with two high level fixed spans over the Ship Channel and Beach Thorofare (Intracoastal Waterway). Unlike the existing structures, there would be shoulders and traffic will be separated by a concrete median barrier, cutting accidents.

The entire project, consisting of design, right of way acquisition, environmental mitigation, utility relocation, construction engineering and construction was supposed to cost about $285 million. Most of the money would come from the Federal Bridge Replacement Fund, administered by the Federal Highway Administration and the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund.

Contract A was supposed to start construction next month under a schedule that NJDOT described as aggressive.

t a time when some transportation projects are drawing one or occasionally no bids, the good news about the first phase of New Jersey’s Ocean City causeway replacement project is that there were three bidders.