Bridge separates ODOT and Port

Port manager objects to state’s rejection of bid over ‘technicality’

The cost for the Port of Hood River to redeck the interstate tollbridge has risen by $1.7 million due to the low bid being thrown out because of a technicality.

And that has prevented a secondary project, upgrading the toll plaza, from being accomplished at the same time, according to Dave Harlan, port director.

Harlan said Knight Construction and Supply, Inc., entered a bid in early November that came in lower than the $8 million estimate by the port. With an expenditure of only $4,919,182, the port figured that it could afford the $3.2 million needed to add two more lanes and coin machines at the southern end of the bridge. The ironic thing, said Harlan, was that the port would have been helping ODOT alleviate traffic congestion at the four-way stop on Highway 35 and the off-ramps in both directions on Interstate 84.

“The bid we ended up with was not terrible by any means, it’s still a pretty good price, but if you can afford two improvements then I think that’s a better buy,” Harlan said.

The contract was awarded to Christie Constructors, Inc., for $6,690,696 after Knight’s bid was pulled by ODOT. That action was taken because the company failed to provide the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) documentation within the set timeline.

However, Harlan said Knight had misinterpreted the bidding protocol and thought the DBE compliance list could turned in within the next two hours along with the notification of other subcontractors. Although Knight delivered the information prior to that deadline, ODOT would not allow the bid to be processed. ODOT spokesperson Dave Thompson said the bidding process is “black and white” to ensure fairness for all parties. He said the agency was also enacting rules set out by the Federal Highway Administration which had awarded the port a $1.35 million grant.

“We’re very sympathetic to the port’s feeling that they just lost money but there’s just no way around the contract bid rules,” he said.

Thompson said that Knight could have appealed the decision but Harlan said once ODOT had notified the firm’s bonding company of the problem it withdrew support for the project. Therefore, Harlan said Knight was prevented from moving forward because, without a bid in place, there was no basis for challenging ODOT’s decision.

“We have to be tough on the rules but we definitely feel for the difficulty,” Thompson said.

In addition to that loss of capital, Harlan said ODOT’s bidding process also required the port to pay $26,590 for an unnecessary weight analysis of the structure. He said the answer going into the study of whether a narrow bridge built in 1924 would allow safe passage by a truck that was 48,000 pounds over the legal limit was an obvious “no.”

“I don’t think anyone would argue that these types of problems tend to reinforce the perception that government doesn’t work that well some of the time,” Harlan said.

He said although the winning bid is still lower than expected total it will also bring the port more debt service.

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