The Iowa DOT is allocating $16 million to pay for nighttime labor on the Interstate 74 bridge to help make up for lost time.

A snowy, icy, brutal winter on the river has been followed by a record-breaking spring flood, and those factors have wreaked havoc on the construction timeline. The conditions have made it unsafe for some work, especially construction activity directly in and above the river.

"While we continue to look for all reasonable and feasible ways to expedite work, it was determined that allocating additional funds was unavoidable in order to complete the westbound (Iowa-bound) bridge in the first half of 2020," said IDOT Project Manager Danielle Alvarez. "The DOT has approved approximately $16 million for additional labor and second-shift work in the river with the intent of minimizing further delays to the completion of the westbound bridge.

"The entire I-74 River Bridge project is still anticipated to be well under the original estimated $1.2 billion."

The state's contract with Wisconsin-based bridge contractor Lunda Construction is for $322 million. The document shows one aesthetic item that has not been widely discussed: Color-changing lights on the bridge arches at a cost of about $538,000.

The basket-handle style arches are to be the new bridge's identifying feature, but progress on joining the arch pieces has been delayed by weather. The arches were to be completed this spring, but high, fast water has created conditions unsafe for using the extra-high cranes that are required to set the segments in place.

The contractor and state transportation officials have yet to sort out exactly how the weather-related delays could impact the contract, including whether Lunda will be assessed financial penalties for failing to meet contract deadlines, Alvarez said.

"Lunda is working on a submittal, outlining their thoughts on lost time due to flooding and adverse winter events, which are above and beyond those normally encountered," she said. "The DOT will review Lunda’s submittal and decide if there is any time extension warranted.

"We will assess liquidated damages (possible breaches of contract) and disincentive for contract delays, following consideration of Acts of God and any other issues determined to be beyond reasonable expectations at the time of bid."

Despite the deadlines outlined in the contract, the size of the project gives it special consideration.

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"For a project of this magnitude, it is anticipated that contract modifications would be needed," Alvarez said. "However, the weather (from the extreme cold to multiple floods), has certainly impacted our progress, and we continue to coordinate with the contractor to expedite construction.

"The project team’s goal at this point is to minimize further delays and open the new westbound bridge to traffic as soon as it is safe to do so."

Alvarez provided the following actions that have been identified by a task force to expedite parts of the construction at no additional cost to the DOT:

• Pre-assembling the floor system along the Moline riverfront.

• Combining concrete pours on bridge decks. 

• Allowing the contractor to place traffic on the new westbound bridge as soon as possible and finish non-traffic related items after opening the bridge to traffic.

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