Commuters from Whidbey Island disembark their vehicles from the ferry Tokitae last February in Mukilteo. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Commuters from Whidbey Island disembark their vehicles from the ferry Tokitae last February in Mukilteo. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Bids for new Mukilteo ferry terminal are millions too high

The state thought $65 million would be a good price, but the lowest bid came in at $72 million.

MUKILTEO — The wait for the ferry just got longer.

The five bids for a major phase of the construction of the new Mukilteo ferry terminal were rejected Tuesday. The state Department of Transportation said the offers came in way over budget.

“We rejected all of those bids and notified the contractors that we have to go back and do it again. It cost too much money,” said Ian Sterling, Washington State Ferries spokesman. “We have to go back to the drawing board and rescope the project.”

Sterling cited the recently increased price of steel as the main reason.

The department’s engineers came up with an estimate of $65 million for the work that includes building the main terminal and holding lanes. That estimate was not disclosed to contractors.

“The lowest bid came back at $72 million,” Sterling said. “The next lowest bid was $18 million over, and from there it just goes up.”

He said the bids exceeded the money available.

The state will reopen a new round of bids in October, Sterling said. That was when construction of the next phase was set to begin.

It means at least a six-month delay for opening the new terminal, which was slated for the spring of 2020. The project was already behind schedule from the original target date for 2019.

The chairman of the Senate Transportation Commission said he was disappointed but understood.

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, also expressed concern that the cost of steel could keep rising under the current economic policies of the Trump administration.

“I hope this trade war does not have a cascade effect on other projects,” he said.

The project has been appropriated $167 million in federal and state funding.

“There’s always the risk that when you put it back out for bid it comes back higher,” Sterling said. “There’s a building boom going on now.”

The first phase of construction is due to wrap up in the next month or so. It includes the removal of the fuel pier and site prep.

“There has been a lot of work done getting ready to build,” Sterling said.

The new terminal is being built along the waterfront one-third of a mile east of the existing terminal, which continues to be operational. The route has more than 4 million passengers a year.

“I don’t expect any major design changes … ” Sterling said. “We are interviewing the contractors to figure out if we can do this for less money … It’s already fairly stripped down.”

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

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