Illinois Bridge Lacking Bids on Coating Work


The Riverside Board of Trustees in Illinois has had trouble getting bids for coating a rusting and flaking bridge this year.

The H. Wallace Caldwell Memorial Bridge, also known as the Swinging Bridge, is 210-feet long cable suspension bridge over the Des Plaines River. The bridge was originally built in 1940 and rebuilt in 2002.

An inspection of the bridge in 2020 found that the coating applied in 2011 was in a state of “widespread failure.”

“The bridge likely did not have proper surface preparation for the last coating project,” the report concluded. The coating had reportedly been expected to last 25-30 years but has already began flaking.

In January, the Riverside Township Board of Trustees voted unanimously to hire API Architects to manage the project.

Reported by The Riverside-Brookfield Landmark, API recommended removing all existing coatings, dirt, oil and rust from the bridge prior to applying new coating. After receiving no response from seeking bids in the spring and summer, trustees reached out directly to firms for proposals.

The township board budgeted $75,000 for the project in its 2021-2022 budget, but the two bids are more than expected. Lakes and Rivers Contracting July proposal was priced at $725,000, citing a need to abate lead paint, while Era Valdiva Contractors Inc. proposed at an amount of $155,000.

“I’m hopeful we’ll get at least one more bid so we can get the job done as soon as possible,” Riverside Township Supervisor Vera Wilt told board members at their meeting on Oct. 13. “I’m not very hopeful that this season will allow it to happen.”

The proposal from Era Valdiva Contractors Inc. did not meet API’s specifications to completely remove the existing coating, instead proposing using liquid detergent and hand tools to prepare the surface.

“This will not remove the existing coating and will result in less optimal adhesion of the new coating and was not recommended by the coating manufacturer,” wrote Ken Nadolski, principal of API Architects, in the company’s August report to township trustees.

Era Valdiva reportedly told API Architects it would resubmit to meet their specifications, but it was never updated.

Nadolski also noted that the project is “extremely small” and not worth it to firms looking for large-scale work through agencies like the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The Landmark reports that the township board is trying to find a way to scale back the scope of the work to make it affordable, if they can find a company to complete the project.

“We’ll do the best job we can, but we’re still searching for the right company to do it,” Wilt said.

Recent Industry Issues, Higher Prices

The industry overall has been facing inflation, higher bid costs and shortages, while also recently seeing an uptick in hiring and employment. Due to a variety of factors, aside from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the industry is witnessing a shortage and price surge in paint.

From the surge of demand by do-it-yourselfers stuck at home, to the strange freeze that took over Texas earlier this year and worsening supply chain issues, the coatings industry has been backed into a corner with no signs of when the market will improve, some experts say.

According to the Federal Reserve, the higher inflation is only “transitory” or temporary and appears to be showing signs of abating. The central bank’s report is backed by White House officials, who also state that while they’re sensitive to the rising prices, they foresee that supply chain issues will soon subside, having observed the slight downward trend in hardware, lumber and other building materials.

Wall Street economists are also reported to side with the transitory position.

However, despite the opinions of some of the nation’s leading economists and financial advisors, many believe that the current situation could persist well into 2022, further burdening many of the small businesses that are already struggling to make ends meet.

Equity analyst firm, Morgan Stanley, reports that the inflation will continue through the first half of next year then veer into deflation for the second half. In specifically refencing the coatings industry, the firm said this represents “the peak of raw material availability issues/cost inflation, but just the early stages of price achievement against it.”

These shortages, seen mostly in epoxies and acrylics, as well as several types of solvents and additives, are the main issues the industry is facing now, according to the firm.

On a more positive note, since the early stages of the pandemic, the Associated Builders and Contractors recently reported that the nonresidential construction industry has recovered 81.9% (912,000) of its jobs.

Nonresidential construction employment increased by 18,600 positions on net, with all three subcategories showing gains for September, while nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 11,400 jobs and nonresidential building and heavy and civil engineering employment rose by 4,100 and 3,100 positions, respectively.

The Associated General Contractors of America weighed in on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report in October, noting that nonresidential construction has been affected by the widespread supply chain problems, which are causing owners already uncertain about future demand for commercial space to delay or even cancel some projects.

“While it is refreshing to see job gains in both residential and nonresidential construction, nonresidential building and infrastructure employment remains far below its pre-pandemic peak,” said Ken Simonson, the AGC’s Chief Economist, at the time. “It will take more than a few months of gains to match the overall economy.”

A recent study by construction and real estate financial software firm Rabbet found that slow payments this year are on track to cost the construction industry $136 billion.

The survey, conducted in September, polled subcontractors and general contractors to find out how slow payment on the part of their customers impacted the overall industry and is over double what Rabbet reported in 2019.

In its most recent report, Rabbet has found that due to slow payments the construction industry is slated to see an increase in its costs related to the matter for a second consecutive year. Specifically, the industry is expected to witness a 36% uptick, or approximately $136 billion, respectfully.

During the polling phase of the survey, Rabbet found that when contractors are forced to cover the cost of wages and materials without being paid promptly for them, those costs are passed on in the form of higher bid prices and project delays.


Tagged categories: Bidding; Bridges; Bridges; Coatings; Contracts; Flaking; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Rust; Surface preparation

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