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LA Metro Board votes 'yes' in face of protests 24 Jul 2014

Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk

It was a contested affair. Many applied and were given the chance to speak. There was argument among the executives. At the end of 90 minutes of debate, the LA Metro Board of Directors voted 9-3 to accept the recommendation of the Metro Construction Committee and award the Westside Purple Line Phase 1 design-build contract to the Skanska/Traylor Bros/Shea STS JV for $1.636 billion, while at the same time acknowledging formal protests from the unsuccessful bidders.

LA Metro Board meeting 24 July 2014

Listen to the audio recording of the Board meeting proceedings that included, at the following times:

00:32:31 Presentation of bid evaluation and recommendation processes for award of the Westside Purple Line Phase 1 contract
00:48:50 Contributions from members of the three JV teams and from the public

Comments from Board members and their vote as follows:

01:05:55 Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker
01:08:00 Don Knabe
01:11:03 Gloria Molina – moved to postpone vote to September’s Board meeting
01:23:22 Ara Najarian
01:29:30 John Fasana
01:33:07 Mike Bonin
01:42:34 Paul Krekorian
01:55:20 Michael Antonovich
01:04:00 Karen Gorman, LA Metro Inspector General explains hearing of official protests
02:07:10 Mark Ridley-Thomas
02:09:28 End of debate
02:11:15 The vote - 9 to 3 for award of contract
02:15:47 End of agenda item

One of the 'no' votes came from the Chair of the Construction Committee itself, LA County Supervisor Don Knabe, who argued to his fellow Board members “I'm having a hard time leaving $192 million on the table."

Knabe was referring to the $1.444 billion proposal by the Dragados/Astaldi/Southland DAS JV, which scored third in Metro’s bid evaluation report. In second place is the Impregilo/Samsung/Salini JV proposal, which is $127 million less than the STS proposal for the 3.9-mile (6.25km) twin-tube running tunnel extension and three new underground stations beneath Wilshire Boulevard.

"This process is extremely flawed," said Knabe.

The other two Board dissenters were LA County Supervisor and First Vice Chair of the Metro Board of Directors, Mark Ridley-Thomas, and LA County Supervisor, Michael Antonovich. Board member and LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who raised various points for clarification and moved to postpone the vote until the September Board meeting when the process of the reviewing the protests would have been concluded or continuing, was out of the room at the time of the vote and did not vote.

At the Board meeting, which is an open to the public event, representatives of all three JVs made statements with contributions also offered from the floor by leaders of different unions in support of the STS proposal and from members of the public who questioned the total Phase 1 cost, stated as $2.7 billion; the potential disruption along Wilshire Boulevard caused by the open cut station boxes, that will be decked over during excavation; and the design-build construction contract period of 107 months for a due date opening of the extension in 2023.

Both the Dragados/Astaldi/Southland DAS JV and the Impregilo/Samsung/Salini JV lodged formal protests against the bid evaluation and recommendation. These were lodged by the Tuesday 22 July cut-off date and Metro has 45 days to review and respond. It has said it plans to complete the process faster.

Opposing views: Chair of the the LA Metro Construction Committee, Don Knabe (left) voted against the award; LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky (right) was one of nine yes votes
Opposing views: Chair of the the LA Metro Construction Committee, Don Knabe (left) voted against the award; LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky (right) was one of nine yes votes

The content of the formal protests is not made public but points of objection were made strongly in a letter by Alejandro Canga Botteghelz, President, North America West, of Dragados USA, to Construction Committee Chair, Don Knabe. There were allegations that, in its evaluation of its proposal, Metro project staff made “negative characterizations” of the JV's bid, either as “a lack of due diligence by Metro staff” or an “intentional action meant to steer the contract award to the team pre-determined and favored by Metro staff.” It alleges that a Metro Purple Line executive was “openly hostile, aggressive and even verbally abusive” in his behavior toward the DAS team and that he “specifically and forcefully told DAS to exclude innovative approaches” from its proposal.

Metro evaluation report statements that the DAS construction approach was “not supported by a thorough detailed schedule” and that it illustrated “a weak understanding of the overall project” are strongly denied by DAS in its letter, which also suggests that relevant experience by each of the JV teams was out of balance and that the experience of Dragados, as lead of the JV, and its partner Astaldi, on many metro and urban railway projects around the world, were under-rated.

Dragados, as lead of different JV groups, prequalified and presented proposals for the two other current Metro contracts - the Regional Connector in downtown and the Crenshaw/LAX Line - and came second in the evaluation of both, despite the fact that its bid for the Regional Connector was some $80 million lower on price than the winning bid of $927.2 million by Skanska/Traylor, which are both partners in the Skanska/Traylor/Shea STS JV recommended for the Purple Line Phase 1 contract.

LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas also voted against contract award to STS
LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas also voted against contract award to STS

DAS also questioned the intent of Metro in adopting the design-build procurement method and requesting value engineering innovations. These were said to be more fully welcomed and appreciated in the CrenshawLAX Line proposals, less so for the Regional Connector project, and allegedly more positively dismissed on the Purple Line.

During the meeting yesterday (24 July 2014), it was Board member Ara Najarian who raised the issue of the Alaskan Way replacement tunnel project in Seattle where Dragados, as JV lead with Tutor Perini, is in the middle of resolving bearing seal failures on the project’s 17.5m TBM, which is the largest diameter TBM in the world to date. Najarian, who voted to approve the contract with STS, said he was concerned about the contractual delays that repair of the machine is having on the major double-deck highway tunnel project.

It is not known how Metro plans to address its review of the protests - if an independent committee will be established; if Metro will review the protests internally; whether Board members might be engaged on a review committee; or if the member of Metro’s own expert advisory panel members will be involved. Metro’s team of three tunnel advisors comprises Harvey Parker, Geoff Martin and Ed Cording. Its peer review panel comprises members of APTA, the American Public Transit Association, which was convened to monitor the value and estimates of the new projects.

If the result of the review is not acceptable to both protesting JVs, an appeal directly to the Chief Executive Officer of Metro, Arthur Leahy, is the second possibility, and both retain the right to take the case to court as a third resort.

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