Work could begin as soon as October on the first major construction phase of the long-awaited
Route 219 South extension after bids came in lower than expected Thursday.
Joseph B. Fay Co. in suburban Pittsburgh is the apparent low bidder at $110,468,000 for excavation and preliminary construction along the entire 11-mile extension from Somerset to Meyersdale.
“This is great news,” PennDOT District Executive Tom Prestash said Thursday after the virtual bid opening at District 9 headquarters in Hollidaysburg.
“This is the day we have been waiting for for the last 40 years,” Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk said at the PennDOT office.
Fay is based in Tarentum, Allegheny County, but also uses an address in nearby Russellton.
Fay edged out Somerset County-based New Enterprise Stone & Lime Corp., which submitted the second-lowest bid at $123,835,354.99.
“We are disappointed New Enterprise didn't get it,” Vatavuk said. “They have a plant right in Somerset, and they are based out of Somerset County. A lot of people in Somerset County work for New Enterprise.”
Others bidding included Lane Construction Corp. and Beaver Excavating Co.
PennDOT can’t give companies preferential treatment based on location, Prestash said, adding that the state is pleased that Fay submitted a bid that was lower than engineers’ estimated cost.
Bid documents will be reviewed and bond information verified before the contract is awarded, Prestash said.
Once the bid is verified and a contract awarded, the successful bidder will be given the notice to proceed, said Jim Pruss, portfolio manager. That notice could be finalized by Sept. 23, he said.
“They can start immediately after receiving that notice,” Prestash said.
But the contractor will be required to obtain a waste permit, identifying what it will do with about 5 million yards of rock and soil it will have to remove along the new highway’s route, Pruss warned.
“You may not see dirt flying immediately in September,” Pruss said. “But there is some work they can do before they have to have that permit.”
The new four-lane limited access highway from Somerset to Meyersdale currently is the largest new road-building project in the state.
Two more rounds of bidding will be needed over the course of the four-year project in order to complete all three phases.
Electronically submitted bids “opened” Thursday on the PennDOT computers are available for public review online.
The first phase will primarily involve excavation and grading to lay out the future roadbed. Because the construction will require the realignment of several existing township and state roads, those roads will be rebuilt and paved, along with a new interchange at the southern end of the new road, Pruss said.
Doing that work now, rather than waiting until the final paving contract, will help with traffic control in the construction areas and speed up the overall project, he said.
PennDOT designers expect that the contractor will work on the Meyersdale interchange early in the project, making it the most visible construction for most of the public.
The second phase contract is to be awarded and work will begin while the first phase contractor is wrapping up. That phase will focus on construction of several bridges along the route.
Finally, the third phase contract will also overlap with the second phase. The final contract is the actual road construction, Pruss said.
The Route 219 extension to Meyersdale has been in the planning and design process since at least 2006, with land acquisition beginning in 2009 and wrapping up last year, project engineer Greg Illig said.
But Somerset County leaders have been pushing for the extension since the four-lane highway opened north to Johnstown in the 1970s, Vatavuk said. Working with Maryland planners, Vatavuk said Somerset plans to continue to lobby for the final seven-mile link between Meyersdale and Interstate 68 in Maryland.
PennDOT currently has no money identified for that work, Prestash said. A pool of federal highway fundsremaining from the defunct Appalachian Development Highway Program is being prioritized for about $2 billion to $3 billion in projects formerly eligible for the program.