Bids for S.D. road work suddenly skyrocket

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Road work ahead generic construction

YANKTON, S.D. (KELO) — Many of the low bids accepted this week for upcoming South Dakota highway projects were very high and were much more than the state Department of Transportation expected.

Work that was estimated to cost about $60 million came in at more than $71 million. Seven of the 13 projects saw low bids from contractors that were 18.5% or more above SDDOT’s estimates.

The September 1 letting covered seven projects. The September 15 letting had six.

The state Transportation Commission approved them all, through a series of nine motions, in part because the department recommended every one.

Sam Weisgram works in the department’s project planning office. He presents the bids to the commission roughly every few weeks.

He said Tuesday that contractors’ offers and the department’s estimates had been within 2.35% of each other this year before the latest rounds.

The department’s standard practice has been to scrutinize each project’s bids after they’ve been opened, according to Weisgram. He said the staff routinely look for ways money might be saved, such as putting the project out to bid again at a later time and perhaps doing it in a different way.

None of that made much difference this time. Weisgram said material costs were higher on some projects, but there was no single overriding reason for the large increases. Some of the projects needed to be done because of time. Some were in remote places.

In one instance — the planned reconstruction of a remote stretch of Interstate 90, in both directions, between Presho and Reliance — a meeting was held with potential contractors before the bid letting, to get their ideas on traffic control and other possible issues.

The project was estimated to cost $15,933,328.04. It drew four bids, ranging from a low of $21,484,456.19, up to $24,722,128.36. Staff pored through the filings afterward.

“I don’t know that we learned anything specific on this job,” Weisgram told the commission.

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