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Hassle Element 'Not Appropriate'

City reacts to IRC report on bridge budget.

Alexandria officials saidtheir first duty is "to protect the interests of our citizens" whether the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project views it as a "hassle factor" or not.

That was the reaction of Richard Baier, director, and Emily Baker, city engineer, of the Alexandria Transportation and Environmental Services, to a statement in the report of the Independent Review Committee analyzing the superstructure bid for the project which came in 75 percent over the projected budget.

In the IRC's summary report one of the factors cited for the inflated bid was "the continuing frustration and difficulties in dealing with local jurisdictions (in particular, the City of Alexandria) and regulatory agencies."

Baker's reaction was, "We worked with the project up front and all the things they are calling a hassle factor were clearly spelled out from the beginning. For them to come back later and blame those elements is not appropriate."

Baier said, "We have been trying to work closely with them since the beginning. It's a quality of life issue."

Baker noted, "The IRC recognized the project had made commitments to the city to protect the quality of life but now they want to back out of those commitments. We will insist that all previous commitments be included in any new contracts awarded."

On Dec. 13, 2001, the Maryland State Highway Administration (MDSHA) opened the only bid received. It was from the joint venture, Kiewit/Tidewater/Clark (KTC), in the amount of $859.9 million. Maryland formally rejected the bid and established the IRC to analyze the process and make recommendations on how to proceed.

Chaired by Thomas R. Warne, Tom Warne and Associates, South Jordan, UT, and former Executive Director, Utah Department of Transportation, the IRC is composed of 10, including Warne, specialists in engineering and bridge construction projects.

PRE-CONDITIONS ESTABLISHED

In charging the IRC to help it "move this project to construction" MDSHA laid down several conditions they wanted the committee to build in to their analysis.

. Recognition of, and adherence to, the commitments made as a consequence of the design competition process.

. Give due consideration to the requirements of the Record of Decision and recognize that significant deviation from the results of the environmental process was not a desired course of action.

. Move the project forward and re-bid it as soon as possible.

To accomplish its task, the IRC employed three methodologies: 1. Launch a Value Engineering effort; 2. An in-depth review of the contract documents; and 3. Interview KTC and other contractors, who did not bid, to determine why KTC's bid was so high and why the others chose not to submit bids.

A result of the interview process, the IRC determined that one of the bid inflation causal factors was the so-called "hassle factor." Although, it was not called that in the actual IRC report, only in Feb. 28 summary.

In the full report's summary, the IRC states, "Another area where commitments were made ... include noise, work hour and truck routing restrictions that are in place as a consequence of the requirements from the City of Alexandria.

"It is clear from the inputs from the contractors that there are significant impacts to the construction schedule and cost as a result of these commitments. They further limit how some of the options in this report can be implemented."

To this Baker reacted, "We feel we have already been working with them to meet their recommendations. The real issues apply to the bridge design not to the city's requirements."

She further explained, "We have been working closely with the project but they have to understand they are involved in the ninth most populated area in the country. This is not some highway project out in the wide open spaces.

THINGS ARE IMPROVING

"When construction started we had a number of violations. We had trucks operating during the wrong hours, traveling the wrong streets, dumping dirt on the streets, and a number of other matters. We appealed to Maryland, VDOT, and The Project but got very little cooperation."

But Baker pointed out that things have improved. One of the examples she cited was, "We are working with project staff on the possibility of bringing trucks into the Jones Point Park construction site by way of South Street rather than through the neighborhoods. They are considering it. It would get the traffic off South Royal Street."

In the final analysis the IRC presented three re-advertisement scenarios to be considered by MDSHA in order "to obtain a useable crossing, or hopefully a complete project, within the funds currently available." They and their goals are:

1. Base bid for Outer Loop Bridge with add-alternates for Inner Loop Bridge. Goal: Complete Outer Loop Bridge and construct balance of elements up to budget by one contractor.

2. Advertise three contracts, adjust scope of last two contracts through add-alternates to fit budget. Goal: Obtain lowest possible cost for each project element.

3. Advertise base first then remainder of Outer Loop Bridge with add-alternates for Inner Loop Bridge. Goal: Re-advertise as quickly as possible while minimizing number of contractors and schedule delays to whole bridge.

Buried within the report's comprehensive suggestions, consideration and recommendations to MDSHA is one that flies directly in the face of Baker's insistence that, "The city is committed to protect the interests of our citizens."

As part of the Value Engineering Summary of Alternatives, the next to last item, in a list of 19, there is this suggestion: "Allow multiple shift operations by obtaining a waiver to the existing work hours in Virginia."

This followed a list of comments from contractor interviews, one of which stated, "Explore ways to improve access to project in Virginia and associated work hours and rules."