PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A project to add highway lighting along a school route in Todd County drew two bids in September that state Department of Transportation officials thought were too high. So they took a chance and recommended that the bids be rejected.

The lighting work along SD 63 in Parmalee was instead made part of a broader package, combining it with work about 25 miles away, with the hope that the second set of bids would come in lower.

The risk didn’t turn out. On Tuesday, the South Dakota Transportation Commission reluctantly approved a bid of $225,354.72 from Bituminous Paving of Ortonville, Minnesota, that was not only 73% higher than the revised $130,062.22 estimate, but also quite a bit more than the September low bid of $179,147.22 from Muth Electric of Mitchell that was rejected.

Sam Weisgram from DOT’s Office of Project Development recommended approval Tuesday. He called the new lights an important safety enhancement and said the goal is to have them in place before the 2024 school year starts.

Commissioner Don Roby of Watertown asked whether anything was learned. Weisgram said that conversations with the bidders didn’t produce any suggestions for what could have been done differently or better. “This is a pretty straightforward lighting contract and it’s unfortunate we weren’t able to see better results,” Weisgram said.

Commissioner Austin Simons of Mobridge thanked DOT staff for their efforts. “The work’s not going unnoticed,” he said. He also noted that a pattern has been developing of bids being more expensive in remote areas of western South Dakota.

The lighting work was part of a three-job combination awarded to Bituminous Paving for work in Jackson, Mellette, Tripp and Todd counties. The company’s overall low bid of $21,921,996.06 was just below the combined estimates totaling $21,957,684.

Projects awarded by the commission on Tuesday also included:

In McCook and Minnehaha counties, replacing the road surface on a stretch of Interstate 90 from two miles west of Humboldt to two miles east of Hartford and replacing a structure at the SD 38 exit. The low bid of $37,296,052.10 from Reede Construction of Aberdeen was 2.4% below estimate.

In Spink County, installing structures on county roads over creeks southwest of Redfield and northwest of Tulare. The low bid of $2,131,500 from BX Civil & Construction of Dell Rapids was 12.4% above estimate.

In the Rapid City region, corridor signing work. The low bid of $477,335 from Hilt Construction of Rapid City was 5.2% above estimate.

In Hand County, resurfacing and other work on 13.9 miles of SD 26, from SD 45 to the Hand/Spink line. The low bid of $3,891,160.74 from Asphalt Paving & Materials of Huron was 7.4% above estimate.