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Credit: Photo: Kate Hamilton

On tour near Hoover Dam.
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Credit: Photo: Kate Hamilton

Attendees visit the Colorado River Bridge construction site during the Hoover Dam Bypass Tour.

For three-quarters of a century, the Hoover Dam has been celebrated as a marvel of American concrete construction and design. Once again this year, World of Concrete attendees got an up-close and personal look at another project that is transforming the national landmark.

Sponsored by Sika Corp., more than 300 people attended the Hoover Dam Bypass tour on Jan. 20 and 25, about 20 miles south of Las Vegas. This is the site where the 2000-foot-long Colorado River Bridge is being built, just downstream from the dam.

The first stop was for an exclusive jobsite visit, where Jeff St. John, deputy project manager with Obayashi/ PSM JV, talked about the project and answered questions. “We've been able to cast all of the precast column segments,” he said. “We're using a self-consolidating concrete mix that is about 800 pounds of cement and 200 pounds of fly ash.”

Then it was on to the Hoover Dam Visitor Center to tour the dam and museum. Attendees also heard a fascinating lecture on the concrete-related aspect of the dam's construction.

Place your bids

Preparing the bid for the Hoover Dam in 1931 was a nightmare. The bidder had to provide a bid bond of $2 million and be prepared to provide a performance bond of $5 million, if successful. This was during the depression and money was tight. Not many companies could afford to bid the project or even manage this large a project in a remote and difficult site.

The bids were opened on March 4, 1931, and the first one made everyone laugh. Edwin A. Smith bid “$80,000 less than the lowest bid you got.” No bid bond was provided, so it was declared to be an invalid bid.

The next bid brought a nervous laugh. John Bernard Simon Company bid $200 million, “or cost plus 10%.” Again no bid bond was provided, and this also was declared invalid.

The last three bids had bid bonds and brought a sigh of relief. These were serious bids with the appropriate bid bonds.

The bidders were:

  • Arundel Corporation: $539 million
  • Wood Brother Company: $58.6 million
  • Six Companies: $48,890,955
  • The bid from the Six Companies was just more than the engineers' estimate and the contract was awarded. The Six Companies' bid was successful because the 3.4 million cubic yards of concrete that had to be batched and placed was priced at $2.70 per cubic yard. This was $1.35 per cubic yard less than the second bid. The bidders' unique way of placing and handling the concrete won them the bid.

    Plan on visiting Hoover Dam at the next World of Concrete to hear the rest of the story and to see the project that changed concrete construction forever.

    — Luke M. Snell is director of the Concrete Industry Management program at Arizona State University, Tempe, and is a noted concrete historian.