The low bid for the Sodo section of Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement came in Wednesday morning nearly $40 million lower than the state's estimate.

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The low bid for the Sodo section of the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement came in Wednesday morning nearly $40 million lower than the state’s estimate.

Skanska USA, of Riverside, Calif., was the apparent low bidder at $114.6 million. The project, from South Holgate Street to South King Street, features a large interchange that connects the two sports stadiums to the planned tunnel, as well as tourist and shipping destinations on Elliott Bay.

The project will create about 600 construction jobs, the state says.

There were six bidders for the work, all of whom were below the state engineers’ estimate of $153 million, a reflection of the recession making construction companies hungry for business.

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“I’m very pleased,” said Paula Hammond, head of the state Department of Transportation (WSDOT). “We’re going to get this vulnerable structure out of our lives. We’re continuing to see good bids and this helps us build confidence in the bidding.”

The state expects to award the contract in the next week or two.

“Without a doubt, delay is the No. 1 cause that would drive up the costs to replace the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct. We have the benefit of being in one of the most favorable environments for affordable, low-cost construction bids and we need to take advantage of them now,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said. “The fact that today’s bids for the south mile of the project came in millions below our estimates is proof of that.”

Ron Paananen, viaduct project manager, said the low bid could be a sign the bid for a proposed tunnel under the central waterfront also could come in under estimates.

“We hope to see a continuation of the bidding climate,” he said. “It’s consistent with other DOT projects, but you never know until you open the bids.”

He said most of the construction this year will not disrupt traffic, and there will be detours and lane closures early next year.

When complete in late 2013, the south end of the Alaskan Way Viaduct will be replaced with a new side-by-side roadway that meets earthquake standards, has wider lanes and improves mobility for people and goods in the Seattle area, according to the state. It will connect to any future replacement of the viaduct’s central waterfront section, including the proposed bored tunnel.

The old south-end section, which is near the sports stadiums, will be torn down in 2012. The central waterfront section of the old viaduct would stay in place until a proposed $1 billion tunnel is finished through downtown.

“It relieves pressure on the budget. That’s a positive sign,” said Amy Arnis, Washington state Department of Transportation’s chief financial officer, who stopped by the Oscar-style unsealing of bids from their envelopes.

A $38 million savings wouldn’t greatly affect the interest costs to taxpayers of project bonds, Arnis said, because the WSDOT sells its bonds in bundles for projects all over the state — including 200 this summer. But Arnis said the low Sodo bids are a good indicator the state has enough money in its transportation budgets, mainly from gas taxes, to cover the current round of work.

Two Skanska representatives at the bid opening in Olympia, and two other bidders, declined to comment.

In one indication of how complicated the detours will be, the Sodo contract offers the contractor an incentive to finish a northbound connecting ramp from First Avenue South to the northbound viaduct early. The contractor is given six weeks to complete the ramp, between the football and baseball seasons. For every day workers finish early they’ll collect $20,000; for every day late they’ll be assessed $20,000.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or

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