MnDOT: Lawsuit could delay, run up costs of St. Croix Crossing project

Repair crews
Repair crews are a familiar sight on the Stillwater lift bridge over the St. Croix River. The St. Croix Crossing bridge project replaces Stillwater's aging lift bridge.
MPR Photo/Dan Olson

A lawsuit could delay the St. Croix Crossing bridge project and cost the state millions, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The suit, filed by construction firm C.S. McCrossan, says that MnDOT accepted the contractor's bid to realign the roads leading to the highway-style bridge, and then later rejected it as work on the bridge approaches.

MnDOT says McCrossan did not make a good-faith effort to hire disadvantaged business enterprises, or DBEs -- minority and women-owned businesses. However, McCrossan attorney Bob Huber said the state agency is not applying the federal DBE regulations correctly.

"We just think they're arbitrarily interpreting these rules in a way that is unconstitutional," Huber said.

MnDOT declined comment on the lawsuit. But in an affidavit, project manager Jon Chiglo said a 14-day suspension would add more than 342,000 to the bridge's cost, and a 30-day suspension would push the project into another construction season and add more than $2 million.

MnDOT granted the bridge approach contract to Ames Construction and Lunda Construction. Their joint bid was $6 million higher, but included plans to meet MnDOT's goal of 16.7 percent disadvantaged business participation.

"McCrossan is not challenging the fact that there should be DBEs. It's simply the way the Minnesota DOT is interpreting and applying those rules. We think they're doing it arbitrarily and capriciously," Huber said.

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