A Request For Proposals for the self-anchored suspension (SAS) superstructure portion of the new $6-billion Bay Bridge will be up for bid on the California Dept. of Transportation (Caltrans) web site for a second time on Aug. 1,in what local officials hope will be a more competitive environment.

"The biggest difference is that this time the contract will be awarded," says Metropolitan Transportation Commission Legislative Director Randy Rentschler.

The advertisement comes two weeks after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger(R) signed a compromise funding bill to end delays caused by political debate over whether to go ahead with the complex SAS design or start over with an elevated bridge approach. The deal provided funding for what is now estimated to be a $6.3 billion project by raising bridge tolls to $4 starting in 2007 and including $630 million from the state. Tolls could go higher if cost overruns are encountered or bond interest rates increase above 5.25 percent.

Caltrans estimates that when the RFP closes in March, the winning bid will come in at about $1.5 billion, $100 million more than the low bid from the single joint venture to submit a year ago, Pennsylvania-based American Bridge, Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Fluor Corp., and the Japanese company Nippon Steel Bridge. Caltrans Project Manager Janet Adams, P.E., attributes the increase to a "volatile market," particularly for the 67,000 tons of steel required for the project.

To combat the price of steel and open up the bidding, Caltrans is planning to de-federalize the contract to do away with the requirement to buy American steel, a move that will cost $1 million in federal funding, but could save $400 million by Caltrans estimates. "We want to bring full competition internationally," says Adams.

To keep the price down, Caltrans has increased the contractor portion of the Cost Reduction Incentive Proposal (CRIP) from 50%-50% sharing to 60%-40%. "We are really trying to encourage innovation," Adams says.

Caltrans also increased the bidding stipend from $1 million to the two lowest qualified contractors not chosen upon awarding to $3 million for the lowest three whether the contract is awarded or not. Adams says that amount is about half of what most companies will spend to put together a bid and although stipends are more common in design/build projects than design/bid/build, it was incorporated as part of the effort to reach out to more contractors.

Is it working? Adams says the department has had interest from the previous bidder and possible partners looking at forming joint ventures. Nathan Ballard, the spokesman for Keiwit Pacific-led KFM, the contractor on the stalled SAS foundation, declined to discuss whether the company would bid on any future project. Caltrans is doing aggressive outreach internationally with a bidder inquiry session scheduled for August 16 and technical outreach Sept. 23. Work is expected to start April 2006 and be completed in 2012.

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