Bids come in over budget for Highway 23 project in southwest Minn.

West Central Tribune / Tom Cherveny on Feb. 15, 2020 at 5:00 a.m.

WILLMAR — One of the largest single-season road reconstruction projects on the state highways managed by the District 8 office of the Minnesota Department of Transportation is poised to get underway this spring.

One problem: The low bid for the project came in at nearly 27 percent over the estimated cost for the project. The District 8 office in Willmar estimated that the project to rebuild the 18-mile portion of Highway 23 from Granite Falls to Cottonwood would cost $29.3 million. The low bid submitted by Duininck Inc., of Prinsburg, and opened Feb. 7 totaled $37,173,294.34. Central Specialties, of Alexandria, submitted the only other bid for the project, at a total cost of $39,363,498.10.

MnDOT has not awarded a bid for the project at this time. MnDOT engineers are currently comparing the bid abstracts with the original estimates to determine where the differences in cost exist, said Susann Karnowski, assistant district engineer in MnDOT’s Willmar office.

Anytime bids come in much higher than estimates, MnDOT takes a deep look at the differences between the bids and original estimate, she said. She expects that process to be completed within a couple of weeks. It will help MnDOT determine options. MnDOT is likely to award the project, but doing so means it will likely have to delay other construction work scheduled for this season. There is only so much money in the construction fund, Karnowski said.

She said that the District 8 construction budget usually ranges from $40 million to $45 million per year. This year, the district is able to allocate a total of $63 million for construction. While the work for this project is slated for one season, Karnowski said MnDOT is allocating funding from two fiscal years. Highway 23 is an important interregional corridor for the district and handles a large volume of commercial traffic, Karnowski said. The roadway, originally opened in 1980, is at the point where it needs major work, she added.

The project calls for resurfacing the roadway with concrete. It also involves updating the intersection of Highways 23 and U.S. 212 in Granite Falls; the realignment of Highway 23 and Lyon County Road 9 in Cottonwood; construction at the intersection with Lyon County Road 10; and constructing four new left-turn lanes.

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