WATERBURY, Conn. — The low bidder on a $155 million bridge rehabilitation project slated to begin in May has a checkered history in Connecticut.
The state Department of Transportation went out to bid for the project, which involves rehabilitating 10 bridges that comprise the Mixmaster, a massive structure where Interstate 84 and Route 8 intersect in downtown Waterbury. A temporary Route 8 bypass will allow the highway to stay open during construction.
Six companies placed bids on the project, with the lowest coming from Walsh Construction Co., which is based in Chicago and has offices across the nation.
Walsh’s bid of $152.96 million is 1.74 percent lower than the next lowest bid, which was placed by a Torrington-based joint venture.
The DOT is reviewing the bids and is scheduled to award the contract to the lowest qualified bidder on April 6. Most likely, the contract will go to Walsh Construction.
Walsh was the lead contractor working on the Moses Wheeler Bridge, which carries Interstate 95 over the Housatonic River between Milford and Stratford. The $166.48 million project, which took place from 2009 to 2016, involved expanding an existing bridge and adding shoulders.
After four serious safety incidents occurred during a six-month period, the DOT forced Walsh to stop working on the project and submit a corrective action plan. In a letter dated April 16, 2012, Mark Rolfe, the district engineer, said the incidents were “indicative of a systematic problem and a weakness in the Walsh/PCL safety program.”
The bridge was built in a joint venture between Walsh and PCL Civil Constructors, but Walsh was the primary entity. Rolfe suspended Walsh and PCL from the project for seven days after two cranes tipped over, a 40-foot rebar cage collapsed and poor-quality fill undermined part of the highway. A worker suffered injuries in one of the crane collapses.
“We were sufficiently concerned that we called for a safety stand-down,” Rolfe said Thursday. He is now the chief engineer for the DOT and oversees all design and construction projects.
Walsh apologized for the incidents and blamed them on having “the wrong people” in several key positions. The joint venture made personnel changes, hired an outside safety expert and required workers to undergo additional training. The companies initiated several safety campaigns, including “stop and fix it” and “safety happens every minute of every day.”
After work resumed on April 23, 2012, there were no other incidents of the magnitude of the four that resulted in the suspension, Rolfe said.
Walsh remains eligible to enter into state DOT contracts, and it successfully completed work on the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven.
Rolfe said he’s satisfied the company is capable and competent based on how it responded to the Moses Wheeler issues.
“I believe the largest contributing factor to the incidents was a general lack of safety awareness,” Rolfe said. “They were saying the right things, but weren’t doing the right things. I think the proof (of their competence) is that subsequent to the safety stand-down, their record improved markedly.
Information from: Republican-American, http://www.rep-am.com