Met Council begins debate on URS contract Monday
- Blog Post by: Jennifer Brooks
- June 1, 2012 - 7:34 PM
On Monday, the Metropolitan Council will debate whether company that consulted on the collapsed I-35W bridge will win a $100 million consulting contract on a new infrastructure project.
Committee staff concluded that there was "no known opposition" among the project's participants to doing business with the firm.
San Francisco-based URS Corp. is one of two firms in line to serve as consulting engineers on the $1.25 billion Southwest light rail line that will link Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. The council’s transportation committee will debate their choice Monday and the full council will likely make a final decision on June 13.
URS consulted not only on the bridge that collapsed in 2007 and killed 13 people, but on Minneapolis’ Sabo pedestrian bridge, which closed for several months this year after support structures cracked and a cable snapped loose. Gov. Mark Dayton has voiced concerns about the company being awarded another state contract.
But URS, which consults on projects around the globe, has emerged as the favored candidate. A staff report to the council concludes: “Project partners participated in the evaluation and ranked the URS proposal as the most advantageous for the Council. No known opposition.”
That line -- “no known opposition” -- raised eyebrows.
When the bridge fell, it claimed the life of construction worker Greg “Jolly” Jolstad. Glen Johnson, the head of Local 49 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, couldn’t believe the council would award another major contract to the company before the final report on the Sabo bridge incident was complete.
“Just because you’re big, doesn’t mean you’re good,” Johnson said. “I think they should get more results back from the Sabo bridge…I think we need to vet them a little more.”
Metropolitan Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh said the phrase is a standard one the staff uses to indicate that none of the partners on the light rail project, like Hennepin County or the Minnesota Department of Transportation, objected to URS. It’s not meant to imply that no one, anywhere would object to URS once again having oversight over a major project in the Twin Cities.
“We conducted an extensive, thorough review (of URS) in response to public concerns about safety. It was a form of extra due diligence,” Haigh said. Any lingering concerns about URS’s participation in the project will be aired Monday, she said.
As for Dayton, his staff said he would not meet with the company until after the Met Council concluded its procurement process. The governor wants to avoid the appearance of getting involved in the bidding process.
© 2013 Star Tribune