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story.lead_photo.caption A map showing proposed I-30 changes in Saline County.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation on Wednesday opened bids on 10 road construction projects worth $227.5 million, a sum largely gobbled up by work to widen a 5.4-mile section of Interstate 30 in Saline County for $187.3 million.

"If that bid holds, it will be the single largest bid the department ever awarded," said Danny Straessle, the agency spokesman.

The record is a project awarded a $100.6 million contract in 2015 to build the first section of the U.S. 412 northern bypass in Benton County. It began carrying traffic in April.

Other projects on which bids also were opened Wednesday included repairing a 27.3-mile section of U.S. 67 between Bald Knob in White County and Newport in Jackson County for $18.7 million, reconstructing a section of Arkansas 38 in West Memphis that is less than a mile long for $11.3 million and installing a noise barrier wall on a section of Interstate 40 in Conway for $3 million.

The bids won't become official until state transportation officials review them for accuracy.

The I-30 project stretches between Sevier Street in Benton and the I-30/U.S. 70 interchange, which carries traffic between the Little Rock area and Hot Springs.

The work entails replacing five bridges, including two over the Saline River; remaking three interchanges; and widening the section to six lanes from four. I-30 already is six lanes to Sevier Street from the east to North Little Rock.

Tom Schueck, a member of the Arkansas Highway Commission from Little Rock, said the I-30 project is overdue.

"Those bridges are getting old," he said Wednesday. "There's probably a lot of money tied up in doing those bridges. Then you have the interchanges. They need a lot of work."

The I-30/U.S. 70 interchange was the scene of a crash early Monday involving a charter bus that killed a child and injured at least 45 other people.

"The other reason, of course, is there is a lot of traffic," Schueck said.

The section carries up to 72,000 vehicles daily, up from the 45,000 it carried 10 years ago, according to Transportation Department data.

Saline County Judge Jeff Arey also welcomed the project, which he said will improve an "important retail corridor, important transportation corridor" for the western end of the county.

"This is an extremely vital part of Saline County, the city of Benton, the city of Bryant," he said. "Adding that extra lane and the improvements to the interchanges ... is going to be a great improvement. We certainly appreciate the Highway Commission and the Transportation Department making that kind of investment."

The low bidder was Johnson Brothers Corp., a Southland Co., of Roanoke, Texas. Its bid also included a component that required the company to submit the number of days it would need to complete the project. A total of 1,290 calendar days, according to bid documents, or about 3½ years.

The department also required the low bidder to keep at least two lanes open in both directions for the project duration, which Arey said was an important consideration to Saline County.

Only one other company submitted a bid. Koss Construction Co. of Topeka, Kan., submitted a $303.4 million bid. The company said it would need 1,571 days to do the work.

Four other contractors expressed interest in the project, but they didn't submit bids.

The project is part of the Transportation Department's $1.8 billion Connecting Arkansas Program, which focuses on regionally significant projects. It is financed, in part, by a half percent increase in the statewide sales tax voters approved in 2012 in place for 10 years.

The $18.7 million bid for the work on U.S. 67 was submitted by Chester Bross Construction Co. of Hannibal, Mo., besting a $19.8 million bid by Rogers Group Inc. of Nashville, Tenn., and $24.1 million by R.A. Knapp Construction Inc. of Lenexa, Kan. The work is expected to take less than 2½ years, according to bid documents.

Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. of Fort Worth was the low bidder on the Arkansas 38 project in West Memphis. Though less than a mile in length, it carries 18,000 vehicles daily between U.S. 70 on the south side of Interstate 55 and Southland Drive on the north side of Interstate 40.

Mobley Contractors Inc. of Morrilton was the only bidder on the $3 million project to install a noise barrier on the south side of I-40 between Mill Street and Siebenmorgen Road in Conway. It marked the third time the department has tried to obtain a bid for the project, Straessle said.

"The density of residences and the volume of traffic on that road pretty much necessitated it," he said.

Metro on 12/06/2018

Print Headline: Road-work bids include $187.3M for I-30 widening in central Arkansas

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