Judge won’t halt bridge work

McCrossan lawsuit against MnDOT on hold in federal court

Work on the St. Croix Crossing Bridge project continues after a federal judge Monday denied a contractor’s request to halt work on the new span.

U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle also ordered that C.S. McCrossan’s federal lawsuit against the state Department of Transportation be put on hold until the Minnesota Court of Appeals rules on the company’s state lawsuit.

Meanwhile, project crews are continuing to construct the staging area for the bridge foundations on the Minnesota side of the St. Croix River and do site preparation for construction on Minnesota highways 36 and 95.

MnDOT officials also announced that 59th Street in Oak Park Heights betweeen Stagecoach Trail and MN 95 will close permanently Monday as part of land clearing work for MN 95 realignment.

Maple Grove-based McCrossan was originally awarded the MN 36 approach contract by MnDOT in February. McCrossan’s $52.3 million bid was $6 million less than a bid from the joint venture of Ames Construction of Burnsville and Lunda Construction of Black River Falls, Wis. McCrossan’s bid was later rejected after MnDOT determined McCrossan did not make good faith efforts to obtain disadvantaged business participation.

Federal law requires that recipients of federal funding hire certain percentages of minority- and women-owned businesses. Ames/Lunda achieved the project’s goal of 16.7 percent disadvantaged business participation. McCrossan’s bid had a 10.6 percent disadvantaged business participation, causing MnDOT to reject McCrossan’s bid and award the two-year Minnesota approach project to Ames/Lunda.

McCrossan filed an administrative appeal of MnDOT’s decision, which was denied. The company then filed its lawsuit seeking a stop to construction on the project while the lawsuit was heard.

Those disadvantaged business participation percentages were cited by Kyle in his order against McCrossan. The judge notes that “most damning to McCrossan’s argument” is that Ames/Lunda and another bidder submitted proposals meeting MnDOT’s disadvantaged business participation goal.

Kyle writes that “the court struggles” to comprehend how McCrossan’s equal-protection rights were violated when all the short-listed bidders faced the same DBE and good-faith effort regulations required.

“All three contractors were operating on a level playing field, and two met the project’s goals while McCrossan did not; there is simply no suggestion in the record that MnDOT’s actions benefited one contractor over another,” the judge writes.

Kyle’s ruling means bridge-related construction can continue. Bridge pier foundation contractor Edward Kraemer & Sons, Inc., of Plain, Wis., are moving cranes and other equipment to the bridge project site, constructing a dock wall to support equipment access and decontaminating barges before launching the craft into the river.

Late last week, MnDOT and company inspectors found dead zebra mussels on six barges transported by truck to the project site. MnDOT notified the state Department of Natural Resources and is working with the DNR and contractor to ensure the barges are decontaminated before entering the river.

In addition to clearing land adjacent to MN 95 in Oak Park Heights, crews will test soil in the MN 36 median between MN 95 and Northwestern Avenue; begin on-going surveys, and start construction of a parking lot on the east side of Phil’s Club Tara restaurant, depending on weather and soil conditions. That project is expected to be finished in mid-June, according to MnDOT.

MnDOT’s St. Croix Project Office at 1862 S. Greeley St. in Stillwater is open to the public from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday with extended office hours until 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays.