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State DOT rejects bids for O.C. bridge project
By MICHAEL MILLER Staff Writer, (609) 463-6712
Published: Friday, December 23, 2005
Updated: Friday, December 23, 2005

OCEAN CITY-The state Department of Transportation on Thursday rejected bids for a new Route 52 causeway, one of the most ambitious and expensive transportation projects the agency has undertaken.

The lowest of the three bids came in $93 million higher than the $150 million the state has budgeted for the first half of construction.

"The bids were deemed noncompetitive based on federal criteria," DOT spokeswoman Erin Phalon said.

Despite the setback, the state still intends to replace the four dilapidated bridges linking Ocean City and Somers Point with a new causeway. But the high bids will delay construction for at least six months as engineers study their options. The state had hoped to begin construction early next year.

"It in no way is an indication the project is not moving forward," Phalon said, adding that it is too early to say whether the state will scale back the scope or amenities originally planned for the new causeway.

The project as designed boasts twin 2.5-mile-long bridges that span 35 feet high over the Great Egg Harbor Bay. The two-phase project includes a pedestrian and bicycle walkway, a boat ramp and fishing pier, a parking lot, a new Ocean City Welcome Center and the removal of the Somers Point traffic circle, among other things.

The low bidder was the joint venture of Agate Construction Co. of Dennis Township, Cape May County, and Granite Halmar Construction of Mount Vernon, N.Y., with a bid of $243 million. The high bid was $267 million.

Phalon said the state's engineers will look at alternate bridge designs that might be less expensive.

Likewise, the state is not ready to pull the plug on any planned improvements.

"It doesn't mean any amenities or features of the bridge are in jeopardy at this time," she said. "We'll look at what, if anything, can bring the costs down."

Likewise, any delay in construction created by the bid rejection will not affect the state's planned funding scheme, she said.

Since the project already has federal and state financing approvals, the DOT will follow through with its plans to borrow money through Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles or GARVEEs. The Route 52 causeway is the first state transportation project to be funded through this borrow-now, pay-later method.

This cost-shaving will take several months, into early summer, Phalon said.

Cape May County Engineer Dale Foster said it is improbable the state would save money by rebidding the same project in the hope of attracting more bidders. Few companies have the resources to tackle a project of this size.

And out-of-state contractors sometimes encounter labor issues with unions when working in New Jersey, he said. All three companies that placed a bid already have local ties to New Jersey, he said.

The state has many things to mull, including the sequence of construction, he said.

"I have a feeling they'll be looking at everything. They have a lot of money to cut," Foster said. "There are some rather burdensome restrictions placed on the contractor as far as working on the water."

For example, construction crews on the Ocean City-Longport Bridge had to work around the piping plover nesting season. Similar environmental restrictions no doubt will affect the Route 52 causeway, which crosses wetlands and marshy islands, Foster said.

The DOT might be able to save some money by working around some of the environmental regulations, he said.

"Time is money. If you have all that equipment in the bay and you have to shut down for some fish migration or fish breeding, that's a lot of cost sitting out there," he said.

To e-mail Michael Miller at The Press:
 

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i have been hearing about this bridge for 4 years now and im yet to see it start.
 

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I hope this means we can sneak another season in under those bridges before they start dredging.
 

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For us fishing guys, this is good news, another season at the causeway before everything gets messed up is OK with me. Using the yak at this spot is a wonderful thing. Let's hope that it keeps getting delayed. Now don't think the bridges don't need repair but I'm partial to a good fishing area. Happy Holidays, Keith the bagman
 

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I yak those bridges all the time, caught many many fish there......come on DOT, don't mess with our fishin spots!!!

Just hope when it's all done and over, there will still be some decent spots to launch the yaks and reach the concrete.
 

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Thanks for the update Vince,,

Man, I took the opportunity to "Run" Rainbow the other weekend and boy that bridge is a mess.I don't know if it can last another Winter and 6 Months without a car or truck taking a dip...
 

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Originally posted by sjb saxatilis:
I yak those bridges all the time, caught many many fish there......come on DOT, don't mess with our fishin spots!!!

Just hope when it's all done and over, there will still be some decent spots to launch the yaks and reach the concrete.
noobie question #102: Concrete?
 

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Once/if they decide to complete the project,
how long do you guys think the fishing will be
disturbed? Those piling have been collecting
for years...the cycle of life would start over!
 

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Brent,
I use to think it would take a long time but I have found that the Fish came back to the OC/LP Bridge and Pier pretty fast.The one thing Bass love is structure and they will find it.
So maybe it will not be as long...
But like you said the existing bridges have decades of growth on them and are a prime spot for feeding fish to hang out and they will be
a great lost for the area. I wish there was someway to keep them and build over them and it has been discussed but doesn't look like that will happen..


[ 12-23-2005, 11:19 AM: Message edited by: NIGHTSTRIKES ]
 

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Thanks Steve, I hope you're right! They are a
short boat ride from All Seasons...I'd be lost.

Rich, cut me some slack...it's Christmas!
 

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Originally posted by earlybird:
Once/if they decide to complete the project, how long do you guys think the fishing will be disturbed? Those piling have been collecting for years...the cycle of life would start over!
Its been 11 years for us here in North Wildwood. The fish are back, but still not the numbers they were before all the construction.
 

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It's going to be such a shame to lose one of the coolest places in oc to fish. Rich- maybe they'll let you come up with the next design(One 10 ft above the water with a fisherman's walkway). BTW- did you see my plug? Brent- have a Merry Christmas.
 

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Clutch - early bird got it, concrete is just referring to the bridge structure itself, the pilings etc....fish like to gather at those spots
 

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Originally posted by weekendwarrior:
It's going to be such a shame to lose one of the coolest places in oc to fish. Rich- maybe they'll let you come up with the next design(One 10 ft above the water with a fisherman's walkway). BTW- did you see my plug? Brent- have a Merry Christmas.
It will be a loss to all who fish there...but we'll get by ;) . We could have that walkway, depending on how much of the existing bridge is spared...I fear it won't be much.

I must say Ed...those plugs look awesome, not what I was expecting. If Santa is listening - I think your potential warrants a lathe :D
 
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