Kiewit gets final nod in controversial Las Vegas interchange project

By Jenny LescohierSeptember 22, 2021

The Nevada Department of Transportation estimated the interchange reconstruction would cost around $270 million, up from initial cost estimates of $230 million

Kiewit Infrastructure West has been chosen to construct the Tropicana Avenue/Interstate 15 interchange project in Las Vegas, but the choice was not without some controversy.

According to the Las Vegas Review-JournalKiewit, headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, was determined to be the best value, beating out Burnsville, MN-based Ames Construction, despite Kiewit’s proposal carrying a $305-million price tag — $41 million more than Ames’ $264-million bid.

Earlier this year, the Nevada Department of Transportation estimated the project would cost around $270 million, up from initial cost estimates of $230 million. The increase was reported to be largely due to rising construction costs as well as the addition of repaving work on I-15 between Warm Springs Road and Hacienda Avenue. 

The project’s scope includes I-15 between Russell and Flamingo roads and Tropicana between Las Vegas Boulevard and Valley View Boulevard.

Lynnette Russell, NDOT assistant project manager, told the LVRJ that Tropicana over I-15 is deteriorating due to unanticipated traffic volume, so the capacity needs to be increased on the freeway ramps and the bridge over the interstate.

Plans call for reconstructing the interchange, creating a diamond on-ramp and off-ramp configuration and a flyover at Tropicana.

Each company that bid on the project was graded on two areas: price, which accounted for 60 out of the 100 available points; and technical proposal evaluation, or how the company would carry out the project, which was worth 40 points.

Ames received a 24.4 out of 40 on the technical proposal evaluation while Kiewet got a 38.28, the LVRJ reported.

On price, Ames’ cheaper cost scored a perfect 60, while Kiewet’s rated a 51.9. As a result, Kiewet netted a 90.18 overall score, besting Ames’ 84.4.

Outgoing Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall reportedly questioned how Ames, a company used by NDOT in the past, could score so low on the technical side, noting the stark cost differences in the two proposals.

“We’re talking serious money here,” Marshall was quoted. “It seems to me that in order to get Kiewit to be the first bidder you had to technically weigh Ames’ proposal very, very, very low and it surprises me. It surprises me because Ames is a reputable entity here in Nevada that has done design-build projects before.”

Nick Johnson, NDOT project manager, noted that Ames has done a lot of work with the department and has done a good job in those instances. But this proposal wasn’t as strong as Kiewit’s, he said.

“The details, I can’t go into because they’re confidential at the moment but regardless we worked with our team to go through that (selection process),” Johnson was quoted. “It’s their proposal that they submitted and those are the scores that came up. But I think in the case of Kiewit, another great company, too, and the team scored them high.”

Las Vegas Paving was disqualified as a contender for the contract before the final stages of the review process. Reports said LVP’s proposal was not compliant with the requirements of the RFP and the technical provisions and that they failed at least one of the pass/fail criteria.

Bill Wellman, division manager for Las Vegas Paving, was reported to have questioned the price associated with Kiewet’s bid during public comment, noting their proposal was listed at $228 million.

“This is not about our disqualification,” Wellman was quoted. “This is about spending an additional $80 million of taxpayers’ money.”

NDOT and Kiewit will meet and confirm the contract ahead of its final approval at the Nevada Board of Transportation meeting next month.

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