A review of Connecticut transportation projects over the past three years shows Connecticut companies are awarded state contracts over 80 percent of the time, although some major projects are performed by out-of-state contractors.
Construction firms are selected by the Department of Transportation through a bidding process, and the same construction companies with the ability to perform the work are awarded contracts year-over-year.
In 2018, CT DOT awarded a total of 61 contracts worth $899 million to 35 different companies.
The largest contract in 2018 totaling $152.8 million for rehabilitation of several bridges along Route 8 was awarded to Walsh Construction, an Illinois-based contractor.
Seven other out-of-state companies received contracts totaling an additional $43.7 million for a total of $196.5 million – approximately 21 percent of the money CT DOT poured into transportation projects in 2018.
That’s up from $89 million awarded to out-of-state companies in 2016, when the largest contract was a $56 million project awarded to Connecticut-based Manafort Brothers, Inc. for improvements to Route 15.
The second-largest 2016 contract was $39 million to Massachusetts-based Middlesex Corporation to repair the I-84 Hartford Viaduct.
Middlesex has been a long-time contractor for the state of Connecticut and was chosen to construct a 5.85-mile section of the CTFastrak bus line from New Britain to Hartford at a cost of $158 million.
In 2017, $146 million of the $357.8 million in total CT DOT contracts were awarded to out-of-state companies.
The two largest projects – a bridge replacement in Stamford and bridge repairs at various locations in the state, totaling $96.9 million – went to New York-based Halmar International, LLC and, again, to the Middlesex Corporation.
Spokesman for CT DOT, Kevin Nursick, says Connecticut can’t give preference to in-state companies and contracts are awarded on the lowest responsible bid.
“Projects that are federally funded have to go to the lowest responsible bidder, regardless of what state they’re from,” Nursick said and added that out-of-state contractors often subcontract with in-state companies.
Halmar International, for example, listed 13 subcontractors under their initial contract filing for $5.2 million. Eight of those subcontractors are based in Connecticut. The project awarded to Halmar is 80 percent funded by the federal government.
Despite CT DOT largely awarding construction projects to in-state companies, Don Shubert, head of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association said in May that “our members are working in Massachusetts, working in New York and Rhode Island, but there hasn’t been work in Connecticut in ten years.”
Shubert, along with a coalition of other groups, has been pushing for tolls on Connecticut highways as a way to fund future transportation projects through Move CT Forward.
Contract awards by CT DOT came under scrutiny following a report by the Hartford Courant that Florida-based FIGG Bridge Inspection, would oversee construction engineering and inspection for improvements to the Arrigoni Bridge in Middletown.
FIGG was blamed for the fatal collapse of a pedestrian bridge in Florida in March of 2018.
CT DOT has stood behind the selection, saying the firm has worked on multiple Connecticut projects in the past that CT DOT has “absolute confidence” in them.