WASHINGTON – A Thursday bid deadline on the largest phase of the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge reconstruction has been pushed back to next month, because the federal government has failed to approve the project’s labor agreement, Maryland officials said.
The Federal Highway Administration has signed off on all of the bridge’s $500 million superstructure contract, except for the project labor agreement, said Jack Cahalan, a Maryland Department of Transportation spokesman. Such agreements require union-type work rules from contractors in exchange for a union pledge not to strike.
President Bush signed an executive order banning the agreements earlier this year, but a federal judge overturned that order earlier this month.
Three weeks after that ruling, however, Cahalan said the FHA has yet to OK the project labor agreement in the Wilson Bridge replacement. The state said federal inaction forced it to postpone the deadline for the superstructure contract to Dec. 13.
“Right now we’ve lost 10 weeks,” said Cahalan. “Every day that we must delay is another day that 190,000 people are sitting in congestion on that bridge.”
This is the second time the deadline for that contract has been postponed. Bids were originally due in October, but that deadline was moved back to Nov. 29 at the request of contractors. Now the deadline is set for Dec.13.
FHA and White House officials could not be reached Wednesday to comment on the status of the superstructure contract. Administration approval is vital, since the federal government will pay the bulk of the $2.4 billion bridge project.
The aging Wilson Bridge is the only drawbridge left in the interstate highway system. It is also a notorious bottleneck on the Capital Beltway and on Interstate 95, which it carries across the Potomac River.
Maryland manages the contracts for the foundation and superstructure of the bridge, since the state’s border extends to the Virginia side of the Potomac. Each state will handle construction of interchanges for its side of the bridge.
Contracts for the first two phases of the project — the $15 million dredging completed last year and the $125 million foundation work now under way — were not negotiated using projected labor agreements. But in August, Maryland included project labor agreements when it issued requests for superstructure bids.
Cahalan said he was not sure if any bids had already been received, but said it would be difficult for potential contractors to make the state an offer before knowing whether the project labor agreement was approved.
“When you’re putting together a multimillion-dollar business proposition, you want the details,” Cahalan said.