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.