What's another $2.1 million? Mn/DOT throws money at Hastings Bridge project in an effort to make up some ground

Contractor Lunda/Ames also could bank an additional $300,000 for early completion

Blog Entry October 08, 2012

Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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The joint venture of Lunda/Ames have run into some money. Actually, they are running towards it as we speak.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) announced on Oct. 5 that it would pay the builders of the new Hastings Bridge nearly $2.1 million in overtime if it can open the span by December 2013. Flooding and a government shutdown has put the project 12 months behind schedule, and Mn/DOT said Lunda/Ames will now engage in accelerated bridge construction to have traffic on the Hastings Bridge by the Christmas holiday season a year from now.

A few things bother me about this move. First, Mn/DOT's response, which is a mere shrug of the shoulders. Cost overruns happen, according to the state agency, and besides, this is a $120 million project so what's another $2 million?

Oh, but it gets better, especially for Lunda/Ames. The joint venture will receive an additional $300,000 if it completes the bridge before the December deadline. So, wait, Mn/DOT is already paying them a bonus of almost $2.1 million for getting the schedule back on track--and the early completion incentive still comes into play?
Now I am all in favor of the prime contractor receiving a pat on the back with a fist full of dollars for getting a job done early. Heck, the builder deserves it for working late hours and pressing its crew in extremely difficult conditions. Why couldn't Mn/DOT offer up the $300,000 and throw in a $1.7 million bonus to have the bridge open by December 2013?

In second scenario, the state agency could have dangled a $500,000 early-completion bonus instead of the $2.1 million jackpot. Heck, I would even go as high as $800,000. You are still saving the tax payers over $1 million here.

Taking it in a different direction entirely, Mn/DOT could have simply told motorists, "You know what, delays happen, and you are just going to have to wait a little more for your bridge to open."

Personally, I like that approach. However, the reality of it is we still have those at the state level throwing money around like its confetti. The ticker-tape parades aren't stopping, either.

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