The partnership that submitted the lowest bid to construct the $1.9 billion Southwest light-rail line asked members of the Metropolitan Council Wednesday why its proposal — and three others from competitors — faces likely rejection next week by the regional planning body.
“We’re a little disappointed,” said Ron Ames, Midwest region president of Burnsville-based Ames Construction.
“We all put in a big effort to put the project together, we spent millions of dollars and many, many hours.”
Four bids for the 14½-mile line from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie were opened in August, and ranged from Ames’ $797 million to $1.08 billion.
But on Monday, Met Council Chairwoman Alene Tchourumoff recommended that the bids be rejected because they came in over budget and were not “responsive.” The council has not revealed the construction budget for the line, or detailed in what way the bids were lacking.
This frustrated officials from the Ames Kraemer partnership, which submitted the low bid. “We don’t know anything, other than our bid,” said Dave Zanetell, president of Kraemer North America. He said his partnership spent about $1 million preparing its bid.
Few answers were forthcoming from the council on Wednesday, which cited a state law that says “nonpublic data” related to a public bid is private “until completion of the selection process.”
Typically, the lowest bid would win the contract for a large public project like Southwest, assuming all other considerations are met. In Southwest’s case, said Mary Bogie, the Met Council’s chief financial officer, the “price was a concern for all bidders.
“We understand the stress and disappointment our recommendation has had on the bidders and on our own project team,” Bogie added. (The remaining bidders were Lunds McCrossan at $807 million; Southwest Rail Constructors, $1.07 billion, and Southwest Transit Constructors, $1.08 billion.)
The council will decide on Sept. 20 whether to formally reject the bids. Should that occur, transit planners will consider a modified bid package in October, with the contract awarded during the first quarter of 2018 — assuming the bids come in within budget and meet the council’s conditions.
Tchourumoff conceded there are “risks associated with the path forward,” should the council opt to rebid the package.
The council chair said Monday the cost-cutting will not involve a reroute of the line, or the elimination of any stations. Still, the project will be complicated to build, with 15 stations, eight park-and-ride facilities, 29 new bridges and two train tunnels.
The four-month delay will result in $12 million to $16 million in extra costs, and will push the opening of the line from 2021 to 2022.