Bidding for Gulfport-Biloxi Int'l Rebuilding Takes off

The excitement for rebuilding prospects was running high Wednesday in the administrative offices of the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport.

When the bids on the three projects were opened, there was a different but not altogether unexpected emotion.

"All the bids came in a lot higher than we expected," Executive Director Bruce Frallic said. "And we didn't lowball the engineering estimates, either."

One project included a menu of options, but using the higher figure there, the bids totaled $70.9 million. The airport had used an upper estimate of $59.9 million in its budgetary process.

There were a total of four bids on the three projects, meaning there was a lack of competition on two, but it was some relief that there were bids on all projects.

W.G. Yates and Sons edged Roy Anderson Corp. by less than $25,000 on the air cargo facility, with a base bid of $9.3 million.

Hill Brothers, from the Mississippi town of Falkner, submitted the only bid on the airfield improvement project. There were 16 variations the airport asked for bids on combining different combinations of aprons, taxiways and roads around new and existing facilities, with the prices ranging from $46.1 million to $53.7 million.

J. Levens Builders of Long Beach bid $7.9 million on the rental car service center.

The airport staff began pouring over the bid documents after the opening, checking for completeness and errors. Engineers will also evaluate the bids and the Airport Authority has planned a meeting next Wednesday to approve FAA grant application paperwork and tentatively award the bids.

Typically, the FAA turns around the grants in about a week.

Its officials and then-Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta visited South Mississippi in June and promised an additional $44 million in grants for repair and rebuilding projects, bringing the airport's total to $51 million in post-Katrina pledges.

That's obviously less than the totals generated by Wednesday's bidding. When the grant applications are submitted, Frallic thinks the FAA could choose to fully fund them, partially fund them with promises to complete the funding next year or send them back to the drawing board -- and says there could be other options that develop as well.

"I don't know how they are going to do that," he said.

The airport hopes to break ground on the projects in September or October and the work has an 18-month target date for completion. The airfield improvements portion, with massive concrete and paving requirements, figures to be the long leg in that timeline and the most likely to be impacted by weather issues for better or worse.

The results continue the trend for big public works projects in the post-Katrina landscape. Bids for the new U.S. 90 bridges to reconnect Harrison County with Ocean Springs and Bay St. Louis came in well over MDOT estimates, for example.

The state transportation agency estimated the Bay of St. Louis bridge would cost $200 million; the winning bid was $266.8 million.

Airport estimates The airport had been working on its budget with the following estimates:

Air cargo facility: $8.9 million.

Rental car service center: $4.1 million.

Airfield improvements: $36.1 million-$46.9 million.

Copyright: The Sun Herald -- 7/21/06

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