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Muskogee company wins Purcell-Lexington bridge contract

by Randy Ellis Modified: February 14, 2014 at 10:19 pm •  Published: February 14, 2014

Manhattan Road & Bridge Co., of Muskogee, embarked on a frantic race against time Friday after being awarded an unusual state contract that calls for the company to be rewarded or punished at rates as high as $2,500 an hour depending on how quickly it can repair the Purcell-Lexington bridge and get it back in service.

The clock began ticking at 5 p.m. Friday.

Manhattan's winning base bid was $10,806,620 — more than double the engineer's estimate of about $5.1 million.

PBX Corp., of Sapulpa, submitted a much lower bid that was just slightly over the engineer's estimate, but it was thrown out because of what appeared to be a mistake in listing the dollar amounts of incentives on blanks that were supposed to list hours for targeted completion times.

Manhattan stands to earn bonuses or incur financial penalties at the rate of $2,500 an hour, depending on the extent to which it beats or goes over a target deadline of 45 days for completing initial repairs that will enable the bridge to reopen to car and pickup traffic.

Additionally, the company stands to make or lose incentive money at the rate of $1,500 an hour, depending on how much it beats or goes beyond a subsequent target deadline of 120 days for completing repairs necessary to reopen the bridge to all kinds of traffic, including trucks and heavy emergency vehicles.

When the bridge reopens to passenger car traffic, police officers will be stationed on each side of the bridge to make sure heavier vehicles don't try to cross until the more extensive repairs are completed, transportation officials said.

There are no financial allowances in the contract for delays caused by weather or other factors.

Six Oklahoma transportation commissioners voted unanimously to award the contract Friday afternoon during an emergency meeting.

State transportation officials ordered the James C. Nance Bridge between Purcell and Lexington closed Jan. 31 after cracks were discovered that created a danger of collapse on the U.S. 77/State Highway 39 bridge.

The bridge's closure has created a huge inconvenience for residents of the two communities, transforming two-mile trips into 40-mile commutes. About 2,200 people live in Lexington, while Purcell has about 6,000 residents.

Cautious optimism

Todd Saxton, executive vice president for Manhattan Road & Bridge Co., said meeting the target deadlines will be a challenge, with the 45-day target the more difficult of the two.

“We are optimistic if everything goes well,” Saxton said. “It's going to be tough.”

Saxton said meeting the targets has “not so much to do with the issue of manpower and the number of crews we put on this job” as it does “the schedule of the fabricator.”

“We would love to pay the bonus on the project,” state Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley said.

Bridge inspectors identified 264 weakened areas on the bridge that will need repairs, said Casey Shell, chief engineer for the department.

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by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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