Met Council retools Southwest Light Rail Line engineering bid-procurement
The Metropolitan Council on Wednesday (July 25) voted to cancel a bid-procurement process for engineering of the 15-mile Southwest Light Rail Line, citing possible public perceptions about safety.
“Public perception is big, but public safety is paramount,” Council Member Edward Reynoso said.
“I believe we need to be cautious,” Council Member Harry Melander said.
Some $47 million has been slated for initial engineering on the light rail line, and engineering firms URS Corporation and AECOM were the only two companies to bid.
Met Council staff indicated URS had been the top pick.
But the procurement was complicated by developments late winter in Minneapolis when a fracture of cable plate on the Sabo Pedestrian Bridge caused two bridge cables to fall to the ground.
URS designed the Sabo bridge, and Met Council attorneys explained disagreement existed between the findings of an independent engineering review of the Sabo bridge incident and URS.
The Sabo bridge was designed within professional engineering standards, URS believes, attorneys noted.
But the evidence on the record could leave a reasonable person to conclude the bridge design was deficient, they concluded.
Met Council Member Steve Elkins, chairman of the agency’s transportation committee, one of two council members to vote against cancellation, suggested that technical factors could have been at play on the Sabo bridge that URS engineers could not have taken into account.
Several area URS engineering subcontractors testified before the council on the critical nature of the subcontracts to their companies, saying the potential, long-term work was vital.
Met Council staff, citing the need for public support of the light rail project, suggested the council scrap the current procurement for engineering and open multiple-bid requests for completion of 30 percent of the engineering.
Met Council Deputy General Manager Mark Fuhrmann indicated by cutting back the scope of the engineering, additional peer review would be provided.
Reducing the size of the proposal would open up the bidding to smaller engineering firms, it was argued.
“I understand that,” Fuhrmann said of the cancellation causing delays.
But the lost time, he argued, could be made up and the line reach final completion by 2018.
Murkiness existed in terms of additional costs, because they don’t know how the new bids would come in, Fuhrmann indicated.
One council member argued the delay could add millions in additional cost to the light rail project, according to media reports.
The council could make a decision on the new, reduced engineering proposal in January, Fuhrmann said.
A URS official suggested an alternative action, that the original engineering contract be awarded and a separate bid for independent review be issued.
But a Met Council attorney suggested such a move was unwise.
URS officials indicate to the council they were unwilling to discuss accountability issues on the Sabo bridge.
The Federal Transit Administration did not object to redoing the engineering bid process, Met Council staff indicated.
Met Council Chair Susan Haigh supported cancellation.
But Elkins questioned who would be willing to make a second bid proposal if the council couldn’t be trusted with its original request.
Besides Elkins, Council Member Roxanne Smith also voted against the cancellation.