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State eyes partners for massive repair effort

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Wagman Cos. is comfortable working on large projects, said Lisa Wagman Glezer, director of communications for the construction company.

From 2009-11, the York County-based company was a key contractor on the $1.5 billion project to create the 18.8-mile “Intercounty Connector” in Montgomery County, Md. Wagman is partnering to construct the $130 million Great Egg Harbor Bridge carrying the Garden State Parkway over the bay in New Jersey.

Now Wagman is ready to be a player on one of the biggest construction projects Pennsylvania has ever proposed, Wagman Glezer said. The state's rapid bridge replacement project seeks to replace at least 500 of the state's structurally deficient bridges under one contract.

Four construction teams are bidding on the project, a list that includes some of the biggest construction, architectural and engineering firms in the country. Wagman Cos. is part of the Pennsylvania Crossings team and the only local contractor involved in the bidding.

“It is big. It is very exciting,” said Wagman Glezer, great-granddaughter of George Wagman, the company's founder. “We think we have a great team. We think we're well positioned and we'd love to have the work in PA.”

Bad bridges

The rapid bridge replacement project is a unique approach to a problem that passed serious some time ago. New data from the 2013 National Bridge Inventory database recently released by the U.S. Department of Transportation graded Pennsylvania with the worst bridges in the nation.

The report found Pennsylvania, with 5,218, has the highest number of structurally deficient bridges. Twenty-three percent of the state's bridges are structurally deficient, the highest percentage in the U.S.

“The bridge problem is here and it's not going away, so we need creativity and ingenuity to get things done,” said Kirk Stoner, director of planning for Cumberland County.

State lawmakers got creative in 2012, passing a law authorizing public-private partnerships to enable PennDOT to team up with a private-sector partner for infrastructure repairs. Cost savings are anticipated, because the same basic design and construction standards could be used for multiple bridges, said Erin Waters-Trasatt, deputy press secretary for PennDOT.

“We're achieving an economy of scale by having the same principles applied to all of these bridges,” she said. “The selected teams will be responsible for major maintenance for at least 25 years, and maybe more, depending on the final agreement.”

PennDOT will continue to own the bridges and department staff will perform routine maintenance such as snow and debris removal. In addition, the contractor will be responsible for financing the effort, but PennDOT will make performance-based payments for the work at yet-to-be-established milestones.

There is no overall price tag associated with the project yet, Waters-Trasatt said, nor are the specific bridges known. PennDOT is taking samples from some bridges and sharing them with the contractors to determine which structures can be included, she explained.

Known as the “P3” law, the legislation permits “user fees,” or tolls, to be added to the new bridges. State officials insist that no tolls will be added.

Hiring expected

The project is so huge, teams of architects, engineers, contractors and financiers were needed to prepare acceptable bids. On this aspect, Wagman again relied on its experience partnering on major bridge projects, Wagman Glezer said.

“Wagman has been involved with a lot of joint venture projects and a lot of mega-projects,” she said. “We've worked with a lot of different partners and we're often seen as an attractive partner.”

Should the Pennsylvania Crossings team get the nod, Wagman will be doing some hiring, Wagman Glezer said. In fact, the company had added personnel just to prepare for the bid process, she said.

While some of the teams are composed of companies entirely outside Pennsylvania, Waters-Trasatt said trickle-down hiring of local contractors and workers is inevitable.

“(Local) companies that are interested in being involved, they have been encouraged to reach out to the teams,” she said. “It will be administered by the teams, so they will tell us ultimately how (the work) will be accomplished.”

PennDOT plans to evaluate the bids through the summer and select a team in the fall, Waters-Trasatt said. Construction is slated to start next year and be completed within a five-year period.

Wagman Glezer said her company would like to be a part of improving Pennsylvania's infrastructure.

“I look forward to getting some positive publicity for PA, which is always getting criticized nationally for its deficient bridges,” she said. “To be part of a project that is replacing 500 deficient bridges is something we would love to be part of.” 

Four teams bidding on project

PennDOT has invited four construction teams to bid on the department’s rapid bridge replacement project, which will replace at least 500 of the state’s structurally deficient bridges.

The teams and team members submitting statements of qualification are as follows:

• Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners: Plenary Group, U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles; The Walsh Group, Washington, D.C.; Granite Construction Co., Watsonville, Calif.; HDR Engineering, Alexandria, Va.; HNTB Corp., Kansas City, Mo.; and Infrastructure Corp. of America, Arlington, Va.

• Keystone Bridge Partners: InfraRed Capital Partners, New York City; Kiewit, Arlington, Va.; Parsons, Pasadena, Calif.; The Allan A. Myers family of companies, Worcester, Pa.; DBi, not available; and American Infrastructure, Worcester, Pa.

• Commonwealth Bridge Partners: John Laing Investments, London; Fluor, Irving, Texas; American Bridge Co., Coraopolis, Pa.; Traylor Bros. Inc., Alexandria, Va.; Joseph B. Fay Co., Pittsburgh; STV Inc., Douglassville; and Infrastructure and Industrial Constructors, Pittsburgh.

• Pennsylvania Crossings: Meridiam, Paris; Lane Construction, Cheshire, Conn.; AECOM, Washington, D.C.; Trumbull, Pittsburgh; Wagman Cos., York County; and Cofiroute, Sèvres, France.

PennDOT expects to release final project details and requirements to the four teams this summer and select a preferred proposal this fall. Construction is anticipated to begin in summer 2015.

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