Advance thrills: Local firm wins bid on 743 bridge
With its bid of just under $2 million, a firm headquartered in downtown Charlottesville is the apparent low bidder for the contract to replace the Advance Mills Bridge, whose old one-lane, wood-and-steel structure was closed in 2007 due to safety concerns.
The firm is Fielder's Choice Construction, located on South First Street. In recent months, the company has completed an infill apartment complex in Harrisonburg, begun building a water treatment plant for Luray, and received “Full Qualification” certification from VDOT.
"This is the biggest VDOT contract we have," says Fielder's Choice operations vice-president Donald Cantore. "We now have a $5 million backlog."
The firm's bid of $1,934,457 beat out seven other companies for the contract to span the North Fork Rivanna River with Route 743 at Advance Mills.
VDOT says the new bridge will be a two-laner, with a wide shoulder to handle bicycle and pedestrian traffic. The contract also calls for widening the road on both sides to match the new wider span and making changes to the intersection just east of the bridge to improve sight distances for safety.
The main truss of the old bridge is said to have been a historic structure moved from Alleghany County in 1943. VDOT inspectors, however, found it had become so deteriorated that the state plans to have the old bridge demolished as part of the project.
Cantore says Fielder's Choice will build a single pier, a pair of abutments at each end, and then install a side-truss, double span from U.S. Bridge, an Ohio-based maker of prefabricated steel bridges whose motto is “We build bridges that last. Truth is we don’t know how to build them any other way."
U.S. Bridge's marketing director, Ian Howard, estimates the new bridge could last 75 to 100 years. "That's the beauty of steel," says Howard.
For area residents, this contract–- which includes a $1,350 per day penalty if not completed by November 24–- signals the end of a long transportation hassle. For the construction company, it signals the culmination of a growth phase.
Fielder's Choice is owned by Management Services Corporation owner Douglas Caton and spent two decades as a "mom and pop" operation, says Cantore. "In the last two years," says Cantore, "we've made an evolution to the next level of work."
The eight construction bids, which were opened Wednesday morning, February 25, ranged from the winning $1.93 million to Dinwiddie County-based D.W. Lyle's $2.42 million. One VDOT job website describes this as a project valued at $2,792,368. VDOT spokesperson Lou Hatter says the higher amount may include contingencies, plus engineering and inspection services performed during the construction work.
"Any funds remaining when the project is completed," Hatter says, "are available to be reallocated to other projects."
–last updated 3:28pm, February 26