State Supreme Court to hear challenge of rebuilt I-35W bridge contract

The Minnesota Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in a lawsuit that claims the state's process for selecting a contractor for the new Interstate 35W bridge was flawed.

Scott Sayer and Wendell Phillippi, both construction executives, had sued the Minnesota Department of Transportation over the process and had even tried to block the construction of the new bridge.

The bridge was built by Colorado-based Flatiron-Manson, which received the highest score in the transportation department's "design-build" selection process. In that process, a review panel determines the proposal that represents the best value rather than simply the lowest-cost option.

Sayer and Phillippi were not competing for the bridge contract, but they claimed as taxpayers that MnDOT illegally spent public money in awarding Flatiron the contract. They said Flatiron did not respond to MnDOT's specific proposal request for the new I-35W bridge.

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A district court had rejected attempts to block construction, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals had agreed to review Sayer and Phillippi's other claims.

The Court of Appeals rejected the challenge in July, prompting the plaintiffs to ask the state Supreme Court to review the decision.

The Supreme Court will rule on the issue later. Whatever it decides could have implications for the "design-build" law.

The new I-35W bridge opened in September 2008, a little over a year after the old one collapsed into the Mississippi River, killing 13 people.