Indian River Inlet Bridge Bid Opening Cancelled
The Delaware Department of Transportation has cancelled the Oct. 4 bid opening set for the construction of the Indian River Inlet Bridge, due to only one bidder expressing serious interest in the project as well as other factors.
Despite this setback, DelDOT remains committed to building the bridge. Preliminary work will continue at the site while DelDOT reviews the current design and other alternatives before determining what a new bridge over the Indian River Inlet will look like.
"Several factors forced us to make this decision to stop bids on the bridge construction, not the least of which is that it would be irresponsible to accept only one bid, one that would have been much higher than we anticipated," said DelDOT Secretary Nathan Hayward III.
DelDOT Chief Engineer Carolann Wicks explained that there was early interest from several construction companies, but eventually only one remained, and it was anticipated that the bid would come in at approximately $200 million, or as much as $80 million more than the original estimate.
"We are reviewing our options right now, but make no mistake that from an engineer's perspective a new bridge must be built, and we will build it," Wicks said. "What this process shows us is that the construction industry does not appear ready to build this particular type of bridge at this time."
Some of the factors leading to this result include:
* Competition is intense for major infrastructure projects nationwide, due to a significant federal influx of money in response to the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast.
* Materials, labor and fuel continue to increase at record levels and contractors anticipate major costs in those areas when bidding on projects.
* With DelDOT's current financial issues ($287 million in projects were delayed in fiscal year 2006), approving a bid that comes in almost 100 percent higher than the estimate is not acceptable.
* As the current Indian River Inlet bridge design would be the first of its kind in the U.S., there were few contractors interested. With plenty of major infrastructure work available nationwide, contractors do not appear willing to take on a bridge project that has not been built previously in the U.S.
Sen. George H. Bunting Jr. of Bethany Beach, a leading advocate for a new bridge, said he is supportive of DelDOT's decision. "I believe we are doing the only prudent thing we can do at this time. Just like the rest of the nation, we are at the mercy of market conditions," said Sen. Bunting.
The $230 million Indian River Inlet Bridge Project encompasses several stages, including roadway work, bridge construction, demolition of the current bridge and $18 million in park improvements. The bridge work is the most expensive aspect of the project. DelDOT's goal is for completion by 2010.
The current work occurring at the site will continue and would be relevant regardless of the design of the new bridge.
The need for a new bridge is to accomplish several goals simultaneously, most importantly to ensure that a bridge is in place before the scouring of the existing bridge piers becomes a safety hazard. Other goals include: to solve a transportation problem for vehicles and pedestrians and cyclists, to prepare for the future and a burgeoning economy, and improve the environment by enhancing the Delaware Seashore State Park.