A state court has ordered the New York State Dept. of Transportation to cancel an interchange upgrade project already under way and rebid the job because the agency violated competitive bidding laws by requiring compliance with a project labor agreement or PLA.

A state Supreme Court judge in Albany ruled on March 2 that including the labor pact was illegal in this case and "tainted" the bidding process by its inclusion. A state DOT statement says the agency is reviewing its options.

At issue is a $72.4-million contract to upgrade an Orange County interchange that was awarded to joint-venture firm A. Servidone/B. Anthony Construction Corp., Castleton, N.Y. The joint venture's bid complied with the PLA but was $4.5 million higher than Richmondville, N.Y.-based Lancaster Development Inc.'s bid, which did not comply.

The DOT originally advertised the project early last year without a project labor requirement. After receiving a PLA proposal from a union group, the agency added a labor pact to the job 11 days prior to the bid date, says Mark Galasso, Lancaster Development president.

Galasso says his firm's bid was without a project labor requirement, as the procurement initially stipulated. When the agency rejected Lancaster's bid after opening, his firm sued the agency and the joint venture.

"We had already prepared the bid," Galasso says. "But, last minute, they had a requirement of the job that the contractor who won the bid had to use a union workforce." Had the agency's original advertisement indicated that the job required a PLA, "we would have been unable to bid it because, as an open-shop contractor, it would force us to fire our entire workforce" and hire union workers, he says.

However, Mark Servidone, president of A. Servidone Inc., argues that the JV followed the provisions of the agency's bid proposal. "There was only one way to bid," he says.

The contractors each say they are waiting for DOT to rebid the job or appeal the decision.