A joint venture of Granite Construction Inc., Watsonville, Calif., and Corman Construction, Annapolis Junction, Md., was the apparent low bidder on the second of three major contracts to build a new Woodrow Wilson bridge across the Potomac River. The team's $115.5-million bid was 28% below the Maryland State Highway Administration engineers' estimate of $160 million, delighting state officials. "It's a good day," said SHA project director Robert D. Douglass after the bids were opened Feb. 13.

SHA officials' positive mood was quite a turnabout from how they felt in December 2001. Originally, SHA had packaged the entire Wilson bridge superstructure as a single contract, but was stunned when it got just one bid, which at $860 million was more than 70% above its estimate. The agency rejected that proposal and adopted an alternate plan, which centered on splitting the job into three contracts.

For the Feb. 13 contract, which covers the 2,200-ft-long segment from the Virginia bank of the Potomac to the bascule section, drew seven proposals. All were under the estimate, vindicating state officials' revised contracting approach. "Everything we did was for competition," noted Douglass.

One design change from the original plan was to substitute plate girders for box girders. Douglass explains that many more companies can fabricate plate girders than the more custom-made box girders.

On Jan. 31, the first contract was formally awarded, to American Bridge Co., Coraopolis, Pa. and Edward Kraemer & Sons Inc., Plain, Wis. Their $189.5-million proposal was 11% above the state's estimate, but then-SHA Administrator Parker Williams said at the November bid opening the price was "workable."

Bid opening is scheduled on May 1 for the third contract, the segment from the Maryland shore to the draw span. At 3,300 ft, it will be the longest of the three segments, and carries an engineers' estimate range of $230 million to $260 million

The other six bidders for the Virginia segment were:

  • Archer Western Construction, Richmond, Va.--$117.1 million
  • Trumbull Corp., West Mifflin, Pa.--$119.1 million
  • Cianbro Corp. Pittsfield, Maine/Weeks Marine Inc., Cranford, N.J.--$129.4 million
  • Tidewater Skanska Inc., Virginia Beach/Lane Construction Corp., Meriden, Conn., --$130.9 million
  • Fru-Con Construction Corp., Ballwin, Mo.--$136 million
  • Facchina Construction Co., La Plata, Md.--$158 million