Progressive Contractors Inc. has a subcontract for reconstruction now underway on the Interstate 35W bridge. (Janet Hostetter/associated press)
"Firm eyed in collapse of Minn. bridge gets role in its rebuilding"
By Brian Bakst, Associated Press, July 10, 2008
ST. PAUL - The road construction company facing scrutiny and possible lawsuits over its alleged role in the deadly collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge holds one of the biggest subcontracts on the replacement.
Progressive Contractors Inc. will make nearly $3.6 million for paving and barrier work on the Mississippi River bridge project, according to records reviewed by the Associated Press. PCI was in the middle of a $2.4 million project to tear up concrete and put in a fresh road layer on the previous I-35W bridge when the span collapsed Aug. 1, killing 12 motorists and one of the company's workers.
Federal investigators have cited a design flaw in some of the bridge's gusset plates, but also have said that the heavy loads of construction materials PCI had placed on the bridge over the most vulnerable gussets probably contributed to the collapse. A final report by the National Transportation Safety Board on why the collapse occurred is expected in the fall.
The new bridge is being built under a $234 million contract in a joint venture by Flatiron Constructors of Longmont, Colo., and Manson Construction of Seattle. The builders are on pace to finish in mid-September, three months ahead of schedule.
Records show Flatiron-Manson has parceled out $36.3 million of its work through 38 subcontracts as of Tuesday. PCI's is the sixth-largest.
PCI's contract covers paving on the approach lanes on each end of the 504-foot suspended portion of the bridge. The company is based in St. Michael, Minn.
Bob Edwards, a Flatiron-Manson assistant project manager, said PCI was selected over two other paving companies on the basis of price and qualifications.
"They had a good reputation for getting in and getting the job done," Edwards said.
"We pursued it just as we do any other project as it applies to the work that we do," said Mike McGray, PCI's president. "It's business as usual, as we've been doing for over 35 years."
PCI workers were sandblasting, moving concrete, and using other machinery when the old bridge collapsed. One worker who was on a skid steer, Greg Jolstad, plunged into the river and was killed. Some of his co-workers were among the dozens injured.
Engineers involved in the investigation calculated that 577,235 pounds of construction materials and equipment were staged above the most vulnerable gussets.
The chief of Minnesota's Department of Transportation, Tom Sorel, has questioned PCI's placement of the materials, telling legislators in a letter last month that the bridge's designer "would not have imagined the contractor would stockpile all the material on the bridge."
Flatiron officials, however, said the company's work on the old bridge didn't figure in the bid selection. And the state Department of Transportation could have vetoed PCI's inclusion, but didn't.
Terry Ward, the state agency's deputy project manager for construction, said the agency is "more than happy" to have PCI involved.
"They are qualified to bid work. They are qualified to subbid work," Ward said yesterday. "There hasn't been any direction given to us that they are not capable or qualified at all."
Minneapolis attorney James Schwebel, who is representing a group of collapse victims, said he does not begrudge PCI for seeking the contract.
"I certainly do hope they do prosper and make money. They'll be in a better position to compensate some of the victims," Schwebel said. "Whenever the lawsuits are filed they're certainly going to be at the party."
No safety citations related to the collapse were issued against PCI. Investigators concluded that all workers were wearing proper gear and a rescue boat was located nearby in case of emergency.
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
- I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at email@example.com
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