Tapani will build St. Johns overpass

Low bid and correct paperwork carry day




Tapani Underground, which lost a $11 million contract this year because of a clerical error, triple-checked its paperwork before bidding to build the Highway 500 interchange at St. Johns Boulevard.

The attention to detail — and a bid 18 percent lower than what the Washington State Department of Transportation had estimated — paid off. The Battle Ground company was awarded the $27 million contract Friday, beating eight companies by submitting the lowest responsive bid, said WSDOT spokeswoman Heidi Sause.

A freeway-style interchange will replace the signalized intersection.

Work will begin in early June, said John Cichosz, project manager for Tapani. He said the project will mean lane closures, reduced speeds and turn restrictions over 20 months.

When it’s finished, drivers on St. Johns will go up and over Highway 500.

“With nearly 50 collisions a year, this intersection is in desperate need of safety improvements,” said WSDOT project engineer Leon Winger.

According to WSDOT, the St. Johns Boulevard intersection, and other signalized intersections on Highway 500, have collision rates 30 to 50 percent higher than the statewide average.

The work follows other safety improvements to the highway, which links Interstates 5 and 205: the Andresen Road interchange, completed in 1996; the Thurston Way interchange, completed in 2002; and the Northeast 112th Avenue/Gher Road interchange, finished in 2005.

Preliminary design work on the St. Johns interchange began in 1999; design work stopped in 2002 due to lack of funding.

Work resumed in 2006 after the state Legislature approved the $57 million project. The price includes the costs of design, engineering and right-of-way acquisition in addition to the actual construction costs, said Sause. And the project’s on track to come in under budget due to Tapani’s low bid.

Bids have been coming in lower because of the economy, which was also true when Clark County awarded a $11 million contract in January for a portion of work on the Salmon Creek interchange.

Tapani had the lowest responsive bid on the Salmon Creek job, but the company was disqualified because the bid did not include a mandatory signature page.

The contract went to Rotschy, a Yacolt-based company.

In January, Kevin Tapani said his employees know the bidding rules (the company has done millions of dollars’ worth of work for the county) but last-minute changes were made to the bid and the signature page didn’t get included in the packet before it was sealed. Employees were disciplined, he said, but not fired.

For more information on the St. Johns interchange project, go to http://wsdot.wa.gov/projects/SR500/StJohnsInterchange.

Drivers can sign up for email updates on construction and temporary detours.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.