VANCOUVER, Wash. - Four Portland-area steel fabricators
that normally compete for building projects instead joined forces
Thursday in an effort to win a five-year, $30 million contract for
work on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Bay Bridge Fabricators, as the companies are known
collectively, intends to submit a subcontractor bid in May. The
California Department of Transportation has said it will award the
contract in July.
If the bid is successful, the companies said they
will add 300 new jobs to handle the work. The Columbia River Economic
Development Council, meanwhile, projects that an additional 270
jobs would be created during the two-year construction of a manufacturing
Tom Hickman, marketing manager for Oregon Iron Works,
which has plants in Clackamas and Vancouver, said the four companies
are confident they will get the job. Bay Bridge Fabricators is the
only U.S. organization capable of undertaking the job, he said,
and political pressures make it difficult for California officials
to select overseas competitors.
Thompson Metal Fab of Vancouver, Universal Structural
of Vancouver and Fought & Co. of Tigard are also involved in
Hickman announced the consortium's plans at a news
conference at the Port of Vancouver, where the fabricators are in
talks to lease 25 acres next to the Columbia River, with an option
to lease 10 more acres.
Bay Bridge Fabricators plans to spend $30 million
for capital improvement -- $12 million in equipment and $18 million
for a 406,750-square-foot manufacturing space and site upgrades.
Plans also call for construction of a $3 million barge loading dock.
Hickman said the 300 employees would come from the
Iron Workers Union Local 516 and the Sheet Metal Workers Local 16,
with a total payroll of $13.5 million.
Hickman and others said an announcement was made Thursday
to make clear where Bay Bridge Fabricators would establish its plant
and also to meet an early requirement of the complicated bidding
process. He said the group also considered a site on Portland's
The consortium is thought to be the only domestic
steel manufacturer to compete for this contract against competitors
from Japan, Korea, China and Latin America, according to the offices
of Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash.
Murray and Baird, concerned that the four fabricators
might lose out to a non-American competitor, have been working with
California Department of Transportation officials to assist Bay
Bridge Fabricators for about a year.
"I've worked very hard to encourage Caltrans
to change their bid requirements and give our workers and companies
every opportunity to compete for Bay Bridge work," Murray said
in a statement.
Murray is the senior Democrat on the Senate Transportation
Appropriations subcommittee. Baird is a member of the House Transportation
and Infrastructure Committee.
Conn Abnee, executive director of the National Steel
Bridge Alliance in Chicago, sent Baird a letter last October saying
the only bridge deck fabricators in the United States are in Oregon
The letter, which also lists states with other potential
steel contributors to the Bay Bridge project, notes that "bid
specifications require all general contractor bidders to include
a domestic steel alternative."
The 2.2-mile-long, $ 2.9-billion replacement of the
east span on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge includes a global
first -- a 525-ft-high, single-pylon, self-anchored suspension bridge.
Construction started in 2001 and is expected to be completed in
2009, said Lauren Wonder, spokeswoman for the California Department
The "buy America" requirement for federal
funding projects such as the Bay Bridge generally allows domestic
bids to be up to 25 percent more expensive than foreign competitors,
said Dan McElhinney, Caltrans' toll bridge program manager.
The job will require the construction of 25 steel
boxes that would support the deck of the bridge, Hickman said.
Each of the 28 boxes -- 95-feet-wide by 18-feet deep
-- would weigh between 1,200 and 1,500 tons.
Once the project is completed, five years after
its start, the four fabricators likely will look for other projects
on which to cooperate, Hickman said. A replacement span for the
Interstate 5 Bridge -- a long-held goal for Oregon and Washington
transportation planners -- might be a start, he joked.