Commission approves $7.4 million contract for bridge construction

Work will be performed by Albuquerque firm Kiewit New Mexico

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
The County Road 5500 bridge over the San Juan River will be replaced after San Juan County commissioners awarded a $7.4 million contract for the project on March 30.

FARMINGTON — San Juan County commissioners took their biggest step yet during a special meeting on March 30 toward replacing the aging County Road 5500 bridge over the San Juan River by agreeing to hire an Albuquerque contractor to perform the work.

Commissioners voted unanimously to award a contract to the Kiewit New Mexico Co. for a little less than $7.4 million. Kiewit was the low bidder for the project in the second round of bidding.

All the bids received during the first round of bidding in January far exceeded the county's budget for the project, so county officials redesigned it and opened a second round of bidding in February. Kiewit did not submit a bid during the original round, but its bid in the second round was within $5,000 of the county's projected cost.

County officials have been moving toward replacing the bridge since 2017 when an engineering report revealed its condition had deteriorated sharply. The bridge was built by local residents in the 1970s.

County public works director Nick Porell noted the bridge replacement is something he has worked on for the last four and a half years. He fielded a handful of questions from commissioners before the measure was approved, including queries about how the construction project would impact traffic.

Porell said the bridge — which was reduced to a single lane of alternating traffic in March 2018 as part of an effort to reduce its weight limit — will remain open to motorists throughout construction, though he said there could be potential brief closures while contractors move heavy equipment. He said the duration of those closures would be a matter of hours, not days, and he said motorists would be advised of them well in advance.

Commissioner Terri Fortner noted her grandfather helped build the bridge and said she feels an attachment to it.

Porell referenced the bridge's crumbling condition when he told her, "If you wanted to grab a piece of it, you could just go over to the side and rip it off," a comment that drew laughter from commissioners and other county officials at the meeting.

The project has a 330-day construction schedule for substantial completion, Porell said, along with a 30-day schedule for punch list items. He said Kiewit would face penalties of $1,500 a day for exceeding that schedule.

County officials said work on the project is expected to begin in May.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription.