By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
MACOMB, Ill. -- Work on the next phase of the Macomb bypass could begin this spring after a competitive round of bids on the grading phase of construction was opened last week by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
"This is the next important step in getting the northwest bypass built," said Joe Crowe, IDOT's deputy director of highways and Region 3 engineer. "We're very happy to get this going as part of the Illinois Jobs Now! capital program."
Bloomsdale Excavating Co. of Bloomsdale, Mo., was the apparent low bidder on the grading project at $32.99 million. There were five other bidders with proposals ranging from $34.9 million to $38.8 million.
IDOT still must certify the bids, review the contractor's plans and confirm the company's bonding status before awarding the contract. That usually takes 30 to 45 days.
The contract calls for grading work on all four lanes of the Macomb bypass that will connect Ill. 336 at the west edge of the city to U.S. 67 to the north. The 6.7-mile project may have a few culverts, but no bridges or other major structures in this phase of construction.
"It's great news for the area," said Pat Poepping of the Tri-State Development Summit Steering Committee. "It's a great highway and we've been waiting a long time for it. Now we need to get the funding for pavement."
The bypass has been a regional transportation priority because it would complete the Chicago-Kansas City Expressway. The 532-mile route is configured as a divided highway, but not as it takes traffic through Macomb. That slows travel and truckers prefer divided highways to keep rigs away from cars and small trucks.
Maureen Addis, IDOT program development engineer, said the grading project should take two construction seasons. The low bid came in below engineer's estimates of about $34 million.
"It was quite a competitive bid process," Addis said.
Once the grading work is completed, a paving project will be needed to allow travel on the bypass.
"There's no money in the current multi-year plan for that (paving) but we've got a consultant working on plans so that when funding is identified, we'll be ready to go," Crowe said.
Funds for the grading project come from $70 million included in the capital program passed by the Illinois Legislature in 2009. Structures and other contract work has already taken about $36 million.
Since the capital program did not supply enough money to complete the project, IDOT officials and regional transportation leaders agreed to pursue a two-lane paving project at an additional cost of $32.5 million to get the bypass in use. The other two lanes would be paved when additional money becomes available.
Tom Lacy, an IDOT studies and plans engineer, said the two-lane construction plan has the potential to get traffic on the bypass years earlier and at a much lower cost.
"A ballpark figure for the four-lane bypass would be about $80 million," Lacy said last fall.
Other officials said the two-lane project might be completed by 2016 if the funding becomes available in time for paving to start in 2015.
State and national politicians have weighed in on the plan to pave two lanes and then complete the other two lanes when possible.