Sign Up For Our Mailing Lists


InsiderOnline Blog: October 2008

Let Private Contractors Do It

On September 18 in Minneapolis, the Saint Anthony bridge reopened for traffic. The  bridge had collapsed last August, killing 13 people. Popular Mechanics has dubbed the rebuild “one of the most impressive infrastructure projects of the decade—the complete replacement of a major bridge in little more than a year, months before a deadline that was considered incredibly ambitious.”

How did they do it? Ed Morrisey argues:

Private enterprise works. Most road and bridge construction in America gets performed by state agencies who subcontract bits and pieces out while retaining the general-contractor role. In this case, the bridge replacement was so badly needed that Minnesota dumped that model to use one that would produce a bridge in a shorter period of time — and incentivized the contractor to get it done fast. 

Popular Mechanics describes how “FIGG, Flatiron and Mason pulled off the improbable, and delivered a new bridge in what appears to be an unprecedented time frame”:

Along the way, the company drew wide praise from infrastructure experts and fellow designers and contractors, employing as much innovation in its construction techniques as in its project management. Construction began well before the final design was completed, with teams of contractors working 12-hour shifts in brutal subzero temperatures. Three of those teams would drill shafts at the same time, instead of one. When conditions on the ground necessitated a shift in the overall bridge design, FIGG made the adjustments on the fly. By shaving off more than three months from the Christmas Eve deadline, FIGG, Flatiron and Mason have earned themselves a hefty bonus.

Their contract with the Minnesota Department of Transportation stipulated an extra $7 million if the bridge opened on time. An earlier opening would mean another $2 million for every ten days before December 24th, with a maximum of $20 million (plus the on-time award of $7 million) if cars were rolling across the St. Anthony Falls Bridge on September 15th. The deal was a doubled-edged sword: If the bridge opened late, the team would lose $200,000 per day. At press time, the Minnesota Department of Transportation had yet to announce the final bonus, but it seems likely that the team will receive either $25 million, or, provided there’s enough good will to forgive a few short days, the full $27 million.

Posted on 10/03/08 01:51 PM by Alex Adrianson

Heritage FoundationInsiderOnline is a product of The Heritage Foundation.
214 Massachusetts Avenue NE | Washington DC 20002-4999
ph 202.546.4400 | fax 202.546.8328
© 1995 - 2014 The Heritage Foundation