Construction Along Highway 63 Proves Fiscally Efficient

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BOONE COUNTY - 1,286 miles of pavement stretch north to south through the center of the United States. Beginning in Benoit, Wisconsin in the north, the road cuts through six states until its end in Ruston, Louisiana. 

The road cuts through the length of Missouri, serving as an unofficial divide between the east and west of the state. Long-time residents and history buffs may remember it as Route 7. 

But whether heading to Macon or Jefferson City, U.S. Highway 63 is a vital part of transportation--a conduit connecting the state's north and south.

That sort of exposure means the highway must be in exceptional shape. Since 2008, MoDOT conducted seven construction projects along the highway just in Boone and Callaway County. The projects ranged from paving stretches of road to installing 30 miles of guard cables down the center of the highway.

Not only are the projects significant to highway users, but the money used to pay for them is coming significantly under budget. In fact, according to documents sent to KOMU 8 News, the final cost of all seven projects ended at least $18,000 under their estimated costs.

For example, the Cedar Creek bridge improvements project in Callaway County was estimated by MoDOT to cost $980,000. APAC performed the construction, and completed the project for $903,738. In 2010, MoDOT estimated that installing median guard cables along Highway 63 from its intersection with Interstate 70 to its intersection with Highway 54 would cost $3,231,000.  Once more, APAC performed the construction, and completed the project in August 2010 for $2,315,170.

Looking past the snapshot of Highway 63, numbers for the state say the same thing.  According to MoDOT's quarterly measurement tracker, in the period between 2008 and 2012, MoDOT projects across the state ended more than 15 percent less than what was budgeted.  The department budgeted $6.501 billion in that five year period, and spent $6.025 billion on those projects--$476 million less than expected.

"We're obviously getting our scope of work down to where we know what it takes to do a project," area engineer Mike Schupp said. "There's no hidden costs. We know what those are up front, and can come up with a good estimate."

Schupp also credited the competitive bidding process, where MoDOT chooses a company to perform construction from multiple bids, as to why costs remain low.

"If a contractor's hungry, needing work, you'll get a better price," Schupp said.

Construction and materials manager Patti Lemongelli said MoDOT also strives to work with contractors to perform innovative construction techniques to lower the bill. Lemogelli said working with the surroundings already at the construction scene, instead of adding to a spot on the highway, help make it easier to lower construction costs with an ever-shrinking budget.

"A lot of times, the contractor will come up with the more innovative idea," Schupp echoed. "If he comes up with a cost savings, we'll split the cost with him. He puts money in his pocket, we save money on the project."