- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - It will cost the state $8 million more than expected to have contractors rebuild a tunnel on Highway 58 in the Cascade Range between Eugene and south-central Oregon.

The route through the Willamette National Forest is one of the major mountain highways in Oregon. The Salt Creek Tunnel is east of Oakridge.

The work was expected to cost slightly more than $13 million and be done in 2013, but the first contractor fell behind and was let out of the contract.

Now, the state Department of Transportation estimates the job will cost nearly $21 million and be finished in 2016, the Eugene Register-Guard (https://bit.ly/18iifbL) reports.

The agency has hired a second contractor, this time using an “outside the norm” process that allows consideration of factors beyond just the bid, such as qualifications and technical proficiency, said Karl Wieseke, a construction project manager for the agency.

Among the causes of the increased price are extra engineering, design and bidding costs to finish the project and the addition of a backup electrical generator, Wieseke said. The backup was added to the job after Lane Electric Cooperative decided to end service to the tunnel, he said.

The original contractor was Capital Concrete Construction of Aumsville, selected as the lowest bidder. As the work got behind, the company and the state blamed each other for design and other problems. The state paid Capital Concrete about $8 million and ended the contract.

The new contractor is Farline Bridge Inc. of Stayton, which submitted the higher of two bids, nearly $8 million, in a “best value” process. West Coast Contractors of Coos Bay bid $7.2 million.

Motorists through the Willamette National Forest are expected to face 20-minute delays as the work resumes, and the tunnel can be closed up to 20 times on weeknights, Monday through Thursday, between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. The closures require public notice a week in advance.

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Information from: The Register-Guard, https://www.registerguard.com

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