By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
MACOMB, Ill. -- A Missouri firm has been awarded a contract of $32.99 million to complete dirt work along the route of Macomb's northwest bypass.
Bloomsdale Excavating Co. of Bloomsdale, Mo., was the low bidder with five other bids ranging from $34.9 million to $38.8 million.
"This was a project on our March 8 letting, but it had been held up because of right-of-way issues and other things," said Joe Crowe, deputy director of highways and Region 3 engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation.
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.
The bypass has been a regional transportation priority because it will 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.
Crowe said the grading project should take two construction seasons. Once the grading work is completed, a paving project will be needed to allow travel on the bypass.
"Hopefully, we'll get the funding for the lanes at a future date," 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 already has 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 earlier this year that 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. IDOT officials say they cannot commit to that schedule until they have funding authority for the paving project.
State and national politicians have supported the plan to pave two lanes and then complete the other two lanes when possible.
Crowe said the grading project will go through some ravines and a lake, but he described those as challenges and not problems.
"We've already done two structures -- at Adams Street where the work is done and at Jackson Street where we started last summer and it's almost complete," Crowe said.
There's a large mound of dirt near those projects and once traffic is using both the Adams and Jackson ramps it will improve safety. Heavy equipment will travel beneath the structures, carrying that dirt to the grading project, Crowe said.