Next week, four teams bidding to replace the fallen Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis will learn which has the inside track on a project that could be worth a quarter-billion dollars.
But even the losers won't walk away empty-handed.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation is ready to pay $500,000 to each of the unsuccessful bidders, which a spokesman said is the largest stipend the agency has ever offered. If they accept the money -- they are free to turn it down -- the department gets the right to use any ideas losing teams submit.
....Stipends are a common feature of design-build transportation projects, an increasingly popular approach where a contractor is responsible for both the design and construction. The money is meant to make the projects more attractive to bid on because developing a proposal can be expensive.
Civil engineering professor Keith Molenaar of the University of Colorado at Boulder has studied the use of stipends and deems them valuable.
"You can't ask the industry to do all these thousands of hours of work and not be compensated," he said. "I believe in the long term the cost of the stipend is far outweighed in the benefit of the innovation and time savings."