CROWN POINT - Non-unionized contractors won a victory, for now, in their fight to bid on the $80 million replacement of the Lake Champlain Bridge.
The New York State Department of Transportation started advertising for bids last week without mandating a Project Labor Agreement for the project.
Under a PLA, non-unionized contractors are essentially frozen out of the process because of union hall hiring requirements.
Although the state advertised the bids without a PLA, they could be amended to require a PLA before any contracts are awarded, said Carol Breen, a state Department Transportation Department spokeswoman.
The state had been waiting for a decision by the Federal Highway Administration whether to require a PLA, but had not received a "clear resolution," Breen said.
As a result, the state decided to seek the bids now so as not to delay the bridge replacement any further. The bids are due April 15.
The bridge was demolished in December after an emergency closing due to safety concerns.
"Our priority is getting a bridge in place," Breen said. "Obviously we have the ferry (across Lake Champlain) now, but we still need a bridge in place as soon as possible."
The lack of a PLA in the bids was good sign to A.J. Castelbuono, president of the Associated General Contractors of New York State, a trade group based in Latham.
"So far, so good," Castelbuono said. "A PLA is an inappropriate government mandate for that particular bridge."
The Associated General Contractors represents both union and non-unionized contractors. The group has threatened a lawsuit if a PLA is required.
But the decision didn't sit well with Edward Malloy, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, an Albany-based group that represents construction unions.
"I'm very disappointed," said Malloy, who doubts a PLA will be required at a later date.
"That is very, very, very improbable," Malloy said. "The PLA has to be in the original bid document. I don't hold much hope they could ever amend it."