Bids exceed earlier estimates for Henry toll lane

Bids for the state’s first new toll road in two decades have come in, but they are millions of dollars higher than originally expected and may raise questions about the costs of other projects.

The state originally gave $150 million as a loose estimate for the project to build optional toll lanes alongside I-75 in Henry County. But now the lowest bidder is asking for $26 million more than that. The highest bidder wants $227.7 million.

Construction costs have gyrated in recent years along with the economy, making it complicated to plan metro Atlanta’s planned network of optional toll lanes.

Finding new money is never easy, though more than $150 million is budgeted in the regional plan for the Henry County project. But a much larger project is also in procurement, the Northwest Corridor toll project alongside I-75/I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties, which has been estimated at up to $1 billion. State officials have scraped and trimmed to get the project down to an affordable price. An increase of 10 percent to 20 percent — like those bids for Henry County project — would be severe.

State Department of Transportation officials declined to comment on whether the bids concerned them, since both projects are in procurement.

The contractors’ bids on the Henry County project don’t include the tolling technology, which might cost millions more. State Road and Tollway Authority officials would not release the authority’s estimate of the cost of the technology Monday.

The state will take some time to select a winning bidder because it’s not just about price. The project is “design-build,” meaning the state may pay more for a team that seems likely to deliver a better-designed project.

The lowest bid came from C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. Another company, Archer Western, bid $182.7 million, and E.R. Snell bid $227.7 million.

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