No bids submitted to build new westbound Washington Bridge

No bids submitted to build new westbound Washington Bridge

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — In a surprise development, no companies submitted bids to build the new westbound Washington Bridge once the deadline came and went on Wednesday, raising questions about what happens next with the massive project.


Companies looking to win the huge contract for the reconstruction job — valued at over $300 million — had to submit their bids by noon on Wednesday. A state portal shows none did so.

The lack of interest from firms in the project is a blow to Gov. Dan McKee and his advisers, who had announced earlier this year that they wanted a new bridge opened by August 2026, just a month before the governor will face Democratic primary voters for reelection. McKee had offered up to $10 million in incentives to companies if they got the job done more quickly.

“The state purposely chose an aggressive project timeline with corresponding incentives and disincentives with the goal of completing the bridge rebuild as quickly as possible,” said RIDOT spokesperson Charles St. Martin.

“While expediency is still the goal, given that the initial [request for proposals] did not produce a response, we will now be reviewing and potentially adjusting factors affecting contractor participation to the RFP before rebidding the project,” he said.

Speaking with 12 News later Wednesday afternoon, McKee suggested he hadn’t had high hopes that any companies would be interested in the project.

“We kind of expected that,” he said. “We put in a very aggressive time schedule together with incentives. … We had been already anticipating the possibility, so we’re already in the motion of putting together another RFP. And as soon as we can put one together that we have confidence in, we’ll put it out for bid again.”

McKee said the next request for bids would have “a more realistic type of time schedule.” Asked whether it’s still possible to get the new bridge open by August 2026, he said, “We’ll find out how realistic that was.” He emphasized that the new bridge, whenever it opens, “will outlast our lifetimes.”

House Speaker Joe Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio have not yet responded to a request for comment.

Former R.I. Department of Administration director Gary Sasse, who served under Gov. Donald Carcieri, said the McKee administration will now need to re-examine it’s scope of work, try to understand why nobody wanted the job and then rebid the project. And doing so, he added, will likely slow down the effort.

“That’s the cleanest way to do it,” he said. “It’s also a time-consuming way.”

Sasse also said this latest delay in the bridge-failure saga highlights the political bind currently facing the McKee administration.

“Politically, the state has to be aggressive because of the impact this bridge failure has had on the whole state — and if the state wasn’t aggressive, they would be criticized for not acting with the appropriate urgency,” he said. “But you have to act in the real world. And if there are things the state is demanding that aren’t realistic in the real world, then you need to reconsider.”

Though no bids were submitted, documents posted on the state’s website indicate there had been interest in the job. The documents show dozens of questions were submitted to RIDOT in May and June, asking about the scope of the project and the agency’s expectations. And it’s clear there was some concern about how quickly the McKee administration wanted to complete the project.

“While we understand this is an emergency project, there is limited scope information and limited time to develop a responsible concept design, estimate and proposal as well as onerous contract terms that place the majority of the risk on the design-builder,” officials from an unnamed company wrote to state officials on May 23.

“While extending the due date may seem counterintuitive to the urgency of this project, we believe that having a clear scope, assigning the risk to the party who is best able to mitigate it, fair contract terms and conditions and allowing potential design-builders to submit responsible bids will reduce future disputes and aid in an accelerated delivery,” they added.

Two days later, state officials responded, “No changes to the procurement schedule will be made at this time.”

Similarly, state officials shot down a request for pre-proposal meetings or a conference with potential bidders so they could ask questions about the state’s plans to expedite the project.

“Due to the limited procurement time for this project, a pre-proposal conference is not feasible,” state officials wrote on May 20.

Appearing Tuesday on 12 News at 4, RIDOT Director Peter Alviti gave no indication he had any fears that the bid solicitation would fail to get any responses, saying only that he was awaiting the Wednesday deadline.

“We’ll be receiving those bids and those proposals beginning tomorrow,” Alviti told 12 News anchor Kim Kalunian when asked about the potential cost of the project. “At that time, we’ll look to see what they say, and I have no predisposition as to what to expect.”

The westbound bridge has been closed since last December, when an engineer working on a repair project discovered major structural problems that hadn’t been seen in an inspection the previous summer. The eastbound bridge, a separate and newer structure, has been reconfigured to carry traffic on I-195 in both directions while the westbound bridge is closed.

The bulk of the cost of the new bridge is expected to be covered by the federal government. The state has a pending application for a $221 million federal grant to try and secure extra money beyond standard highway grants.

McKee has separately hired lawyers, led by veteran litigator Max Wistow, to pursue legal damages against companies that have worked on the bridge over the years. Administration officials had downplayed suggestions that the litigation effort could dissuade other companies from bidding on the reconstruction project.

The governor has promised an eventual “day of reckoning” for whoever is deemed responsible for the mismanagement of the bridge. But public release of a widely anticipated forensic analysis, initially expected to happen months ago, has been delayed indefinitely so Wistow can pursue possible litigation.

Just last week, the McKee administration announced that it had tentatively selected Aetna Bridge Co. for the separate contract to demolish the existing westbound bridge. Aetna’s contract will total $48.8 million if it achieves all $3 million in potential incentive payments — about 57% more than RIDOT had budgeted for the demolition project.

McKee pointed to the selection of a demolition contractor as good news, even as the reconstruction project is facing a setback.

“I think what I want to reinforce is that the demolition that is going to start very shortly is on a time track that is in advance of what we had anticipated,” McKee said, suggesting that will make it easier to build the new bridge more quickly.

The bridge closure has been a major headache for McKee, who has stood by Alviti despite calls in some quarters for him to be replaced over the crisis. A poll released last week by Salve Regina University’s Pell Center showed only 29% of Rhode Island voters approved of how McKee has handled the bridge situation.

Ted Nesi ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter, Threads and Facebook.

Alexandra Leslie ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Eli Sherman ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.