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story.lead_photo.caption FILE — Workers install a sign along Interstate 630 in this December 2017 file photo. - Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun

A project to widen a 2.5-mile section of a freeway carrying commuters between west Little Rock and downtown will cost $84.4 million and take nearly two years if the lowest of three bids opened for the project Wednesday is approved.

The project will widen to eight lanes from six a section of Interstate 630 that goes from the east side of the Interstate 630/Interstate 430 interchange in the vicinity of Baptist Health Medical Center east to South University Avenue. It carries up to 104,000 vehicles daily, a number that is projected to swell to 138,000 daily in 20 years.

The work, which includes the installation of sound barriers for neighborhoods on the north side of the freeway, is expected to begin in earnest once the school year ends and continue into 2020.

Mary Julia Hill, president of the Briarwood Neighborhood Association, said she is "thrilled" that work on the project may begin soon. Her neighborhood, which borders I-630 on the north, was long promised a sound barrier when the interstate was initially built in the 1970s, she said.

"The fact we're getting sound abatement is huge," Hill said. Noise "has been an issue all these years. It's annoying when you can't have a conversation in your backyard."

Three lanes in each direction will remain open during construction during the week with caveats that are certain to increase commute times. The work will be accompanied by some shifting of traffic lanes, lane closings on weekends and reduced speeds throughout the work zone, according to Danny Straessle, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

"It won't be a straight shot like it is now on 630," he said.

The project also includes replacing the bridges over South Rodney Parham Road and Rock Creek as well as the South Hughes Street overpass. Because the latter will cut off a significant east-west corridor between West Markham and West 12th streets, the contractors were required to bid how many days it would take for it to be replaced.

A map showing the I-630 widening.

The lowest bidder, the construction division of Manhattan Road & Bridge Co. in Tulsa, said it could replace the overpass in 96 days, the shortest time submitted.

Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. of Fort Worth said it could replace the bridge in 135 days while Webber LLC of The Woodlands, Texas, said it would need 185 days.

Each day bid carries a price tag of $3,800, which is a calculation that represents the total costs of the project to road users and the community at large in terms of extra vehicle operating costs, delays and other factors. State highway agencies often employ that contract provision to minimize disruptions for motorists.

"You want to get traffic restored on [the overpass] pretty quick because it's basically disconnecting access to the neighborhoods on ... both sides of 630 to either Markham and/or 12th Street," Straessle said.

The contractors also had to submit how long they would need to complete the project. Each of those days also had a road-user cost assigned of $198,800 per day because the project affects tens of thousands more motorists on the freeway than on the overpass.

Manhattan said it could complete the work in 590 calendar days, leaving it with a total amount for award consideration of $205 million, which is the total of the bid amount, the bridge work days and the overall project days multiplied by their respective road-user costs. The days the Hughes overpass is closed is part of the 590 total days, Straessle said.

Kiewit bid only 572 days but both its $95.2 million bid and the number of days it needed to replace the Hughes overpass were higher than Manhattan's. Its amount for award consideration was $209.4 million.

Webber bid 185 days for the overpass and 1,000 days for the project, but its bid amount -- $90.8 million -- was lower than Kiewit's. But Webber's total amount for award consideration totaled $290.3 million.

Manhattan's bid must undergo a review for accuracy by state highway officials who also must determine whether the costs the contractors calculated are in line with their engineering cost estimates. They likely won't decide whether to award the contract until next week, Straessle said.

"It's more than a formality," he said. "[The contractor] may not have sharpened their pencils enough. They may have sharpened them too much. It's due diligence that has to be done to make sure that neither the state nor the contractor comes up with the short end of the stick."

The I-630 project was one of 75 projects on which the department opened bids Wednesday. The significance of the I-630 project is reflected in the fact that its low bid was equal to half of the $174 million in low bids submitted on all the projects.

The I-630 project is not part of the state's $1.8 billion Connecting Arkansas Program, which targets for improvements a series of regionally significant projects on 19 corridors around the state.

Voters approved a 0.5 percent increase in the statewide sales tax in 2012 to help pay for the program. The tax increase expires in 2023.

Under the road-construction program, the Transportation Department is receiving 70 percent of the proceeds from the tax. That amounts to about $160 million annually for the 10-year life of the tax.

Under a traditional split of money for road construction, cities and counties divide the remaining 30 percent, or about $35 million annually.

The program also created a permanent state-aid street fund, similar to the existing state-aid county fund, that cities can tap for street projects. One penny of the existing per-gallon motor fuels tax, worth about $20 million a year, pays for that fund.

Other significant projects in the program include widening Interstate 49* to six lanes between Fayetteville and Bentonville, and widening to four lanes U.S. 167 between Interstate 530 and El Dorado, U.S. 412 between Paragould and Walnut Ridge and U.S. 64 between Marion and Wynne.

The program also includes improving the Interstate 30 corridor from North Little Rock to Little Rock, including replacing the I-30 bridge over the Arkansas River between the two cities at a cost estimated to be $630.7 million.

Metro on 04/05/2018

*CORRECTION: A project to widen Interstate 49 to six lanes between Fayetteville and Bentonville is part of the $1.8 billion Connecting Arkansas Program. A previous version of this story misidentified the interstate.

Print Headline: Tulsa contractor puts in lowest bid for I-630 job: $84M

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  • RBear
    April 5, 2018 at 11:25 a.m.

    If both this project and 30 Crossing are running at the same time, it will create tremendous problems for those commuting into downtown Little Rock. Many were planning to use I-630 as the alternate route while 30 Crossing was being completed. Now, it looks like that's no longer an option as a reasonable alternative. Of course, ARDOT doesn't really care about that as long as they keep spending money.

    April 5, 2018 at 3:42 p.m.

    This is crazy, 2 years for 2.5miles!!! Even with bridges! No wonder we rate at the bottom of the list with other states. In two years other states/cities could develop a whole infrastructure!!! Come on AHD, get it together!! We are so laughed at by other states.

  • NoUserName
    April 5, 2018 at 7:41 p.m.

    And how many millions for an interchange that hasn't done a lick of good with regards to traffic.