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May 10, 2019

Surging costs force MDOT to cancel $45M in road projects

Photo / Peter Van Allen A $400,000 resurfacing of India Street in Portland is one of the projects cancelled by Maine Department of Transportation, as a result of higher bids this construction season that exceed the state's 2019 planned budget.

The Maine Department of Transportation announced Thursday it cancelled 11 projects scheduled to go to bid this year, saying higher construction costs exceed the available funding. 

The 11 projects that won’t go out to bid had an estimated value in January of $45.5 million, according to MDOT’s news release

“Last week, we announced that we were making a course correction,” MDOT stated in its news release. “We rejected bids on three projects because the bids had greatly exceeded our anticipated costs. Since then, we have seen bids come in significantly higher: On average, about 30% higher than last year. Estimates had already been increased by 10% in January 2019.”

MDOT said its conversations with paving contractors about what’s driving the “superheated bidding environment” came up with a primary cause: The shortage of workers.

“Prudent fiscal management requires us to make this revision,” MDOT stated. “We cannot pay the prices we have been seeing.”

As part of this course correction, MDOT rejected bids already received on the following project because the low bid was more than double its estimate: Portland, South Portland and Falmouth — Interstate 295 and portions of the Falmouth Spur and ramps, which was budgeted at $9.8 million for road resurfacing and bridge joint replacement.

11 projects cancelled

Additionally, the following 11 projects that were due to go out to bid this year, totaling $45.5 million as estimated in January 2019, have been removed from MDOT’s construction advertising schedule. This represents 11.6% of the value of projects that were originally planned to go out to bid this year.

Here are the cancelled projects:

  • Portland, India Street, planned $400,000. Scope of work: Road resurfacing.
  • Bangor, Ohio Street, Interstate 95 bridge, planned $6.2 million. Scope of work: Bridge replacement.
  • Abbot, Route 6, planned $7.1 million. Scope of work: Nearly three miles of road reconstruction.
  • Waterville, Trafton Road, planned $3.7 million. Scope of work: About 1.3 miles of road rehabilitation.
  • Brewer, Wilson Street, Interstate 395 bridge, planned $11.9 million. Scope of work: Bridge replacement.
  • Van Buren, Route 1, planned $7.9 million. Scope of work: 2.74 miles of road reconstruction.
  • Hampden, Twin Bridge over Soundabscook Stream, planned $1.3 million. Scope of work: Bridge replacement.
  • Auburn, Taylor Brook Bridge, planned $1.7 million. Scope of work: Bridge replacement.
  • Belfast, Sheldon Bridge, planned $700,000. Scope of work: Bridge replacement.
  • Belfast, Goose River Bridge, planned $2.4 million. Scope of work: Bridge replacement.
  • Fort Kent, Perley Brook Bridge, planned $2.2 million. Scope of work: Bridge replacement.

MDOT stated that every project in its plan represents “needed work” and that there “there are no easy choices” in deciding which projects to remove from this year’s advertisement schedule.

“Projects removed from the advertisement schedule for this year are being selected based upon several factors including safety and customer impacts, highway priority, asset condition, the extent of the bid overages in projects of that type, and the lack of bidding competition,” MDOT stated. “Most projects cut from the Construction Advertisement Schedule will be performed in future years, but that is not guaranteed, especially in the case of highway reconstruction and new alignment projects.”

MDOT also said it reserved the right to reject bids on the projects being advertised if bids come in too high. 

“All projects will be reviewed as we assemble our next three-year Work Plan to be published in early 2020 in the context of available revenue, system needs, and bidding climate,” it said.

To view MDOT’s updated Construction Advertised Plan, go online here.

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