Losing Bidder Sues to Halt St. Croix Crossing Project

Updated: 04/22/2013 10:22 PM KSTP.com By: Mark Albert

A major Minnesota construction company that lost the competition to build phase one of the mammoth, $580-$676 million St. Croix Crossing project filed a federal lawsuit Monday to try to stop construction from beginning this spring, alleging the selection of another bidder was "unlawful."

In its 14-page lawsuit, Maple Grove-based C.S. McCrossan asked a judge for an immediate injunction to halt the project, which would add a new four-lane bridge over the St. Croix River, stretching between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The controversial project took two decades to overcome opposition and get special permission from Congress to proceed.

McCrossan alleges, however, that in awarding the contract to a joint venture between Ames Construction and Lunda Construction for the realignment and reconstruction of Highways 36 and 95 in Washington county, MnDOT ignored its own policies and federal law.

"Although McCrossan's proposal had the lowest price and was judged by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to have the highest technical score and the most favorable adjusted score," the lawsuit states, "MnDOT awarded the contract to another proposer whose price was $5.8 million higher than McCrossan's."

MnDOT "rejected McCrossan's proposal after concluding that McCrossan did not prove it had made "good faith efforts" to meet the project's 16.7% DBE (disadvantage business enterprise) participation goal," for minority involvement, alleges the lawsuit.

A spokesman for MnDOT said the department "does not comment on matters in litigation."

University of Minnesota civil litigation professor Michele B. Goodwin reviewed the lawsuit at the request of 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and described how tough it can be for plaintiffs to secure temporary injunctions.

"These are not granted often," Goodwin explained. "There has to be a very strong case in order for an injunction to be granted. Now, in this case, there are some pretty steep hurdles to overcome."

The lawsuit, Goodwin believes, incorporates hot-button issues that could raise the litigation's profile.

"This is going to be a pretty important case because it has affirmative action elements to it and it also has money and it also has very important elements to public safety," said Goodwin.

"And all of these coming together in Minnesota means that this is going to be a case that we'll all be watching," she said.