Glut of road projects delays airport work

Link to article here.

Does this sound like TxDOT is out of money or that the road building industry is hurting?

“Airport officials decided a glut of construction work squelched interest in their elevated road. And contractors do appear to be busy. Texas Department of Transportation contracts in this region jumped from $179 million in fiscal 2003 to $525 million in just three years.”

Seems some of these companies aren’t satisfied simply building the projects anymore, they want a piece of TxDOT’s fancy new “innovative” road heist where land taken through eminent domain is handed over to private, foreign companies for private gain in 50+ year monopolies called CDAs. Unless they can tap the vein of unlimited cash cow toll revenues, why bother bidding on the little stuff?

Glut of road projects delays airport work
Patrick Driscoll
Express-News Staff Writer
May 1, 2006

City officials are ready to move forward on major projects to expand the airport — if only they can get some companies to do the work.

When officials dangled a $23 million project last December to extend the elevated roadway at San Antonio International Airport, no one bid.

That happens once in a while with construction projects, but it’s unusual.

“It’s a flashing light on the dashboard,” said Doug McMurry, executive vice president of the Associated General Contractors chapter in San Antonio. “It means there’s something wrong.”

But what went wrong in this case is something of a mystery.

Many city contracts have plenty of twists to worry companies — onerous language, high risks and a process rewarding the cheapest work, industry officials say.

But firms that looked at the airport road job and walked away didn’t cite those problems. They talked about how skilled workers are needed to do the bridgework near terminals and traffic, and how workers are stretched thin by a spurt of projects statewide.

“It’s not the easiest job to build,” said Terry Williamson, Central Texas vice president for Texas Sterling Construction. “If I needed structure work right now, I’d bid on it.”

Even contracting giant Zachry Construction Corp., a local firm with more than 11,000 employees, must carefully choose jobs to get the most from workers and equipment spread from coast to coast.

For them, the airport project is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“We just try to be smart about what jobs we chase,” spokeswoman Vicky Waddy said.

Airport officials decided a glut of construction work squelched interest in their elevated road. And contractors do appear to be busy. Texas Department of Transportation contracts in this region jumped from $179 million in fiscal 2003 to $525 million in just three years.

“It can make it a little more difficult to generate the type of widespread interest that you normally see,” airport spokesman David Hebert said.

So the city worked harder to get the word out — hitting phones, placing ads in industry publications and doing radio interviews — when they made a second call for bids, which are due May 24.

So far, half a dozen companies have nibbled.

“The response we’ve seen has been very encouraging,” Hebert said.

The 1,500-foot-long elevated road, which will connect to future terminals, is among three big projects getting under way to expand the airport. Bids for a $42 million parking garage are due May 17, and a request for bids on a $70 million terminal is to go out this fall.

Unlike the low-bid road project, the garage and terminal bids will be judged according to a list of criteria, a process called competitive sealed bidding that the city is dabbling with and which contractors applaud.

“To their credit, they’re listening and they’re making changes,” said McMurry of the Associated General Contractors.

City officials expect to start construction on the roadway and five-story, 3,000-space garage in July or August and on the seven-gate terminal by January and finish in late 2008.

The projects are part of a $425 million plan that includes building two terminals, razing an old terminal and upgrading runways.

When finished, there will be three commercial jet runways to handle 30 percent more flights, 50 percent more parking and up to 10 more passenger gates, for a total of 34.

Last year was a record for airport traffic, with 7.4 million passengers. That beat 2000, the year before terrorist attacks sent the aviation industry into a tailspin, by almost 2 percent.

“This airport is just busting at the seams,” said Harry Sigley of Carter Burgess, the program manager for the new terminals, garage and roadway.

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