Five teams have prequalified to bid the third and final contract, estimated at $500 million, that is part of an $8.7-billion rail link under the Hudson River between New Jersey and Manhattan. The contract, to be awarded next fall, will involve building 14,600 feet of soft-ground tunnels that run 110 feet under the river.

There are some new names on the list that hadn’t bid the project’s previous two hard-rock tunneling contracts on either side of the river. Both of those were recently awarded.

Set to vie for the soft-ground contract are: a joint venture of J.F. Shea Construction, Schiavone Construction Co. and Kenny Construction; a team of S.A. Healy, China Construction America and Halmar; a JV of Spain’s FCC Construction, Austria’s Beton and Monierbau and U.S.-based Ferreira Construction; a team of Spain’s OHL and Tully Construction; and a team of Skanska USA, Traylor Bros. and France’s VINCI.

The Hudson tunnel “is the riskiest from a construction perspective due to soft clay and the river above,” says a project official. “Cross passages between tubes will be risky and ground freezing will likely be used.” He says team makeup changed from bids for two other project contracts for tunneling in hard rock in Manhattan and New Jersey. Those contracts were awarded last year. “to include firms with soft ground and under river expertise that gives them all a shot.”

Earlier this month, a team of Schiavone, J.F. Shea Construction and Skanska USA was awarded a $271-million contract for tunnel design and construction in New Jersey. In December, a joint venture of Barnard of New Jersey and Judlau Contracting was awarded a $583-million design-build contract for the Manhattan tunnel segment.

On January 11, newly inaugurated New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie, a Republican, named a former industry executive to head New Jersey Transit, a key megatunnel owner. Christie named James Weinstein, a former vice president of AECOM Technology Corp. and a former official of AMTRAK, to serve as executive director of New Jersey Transit. He is also a former official of the state's transportation department and former chairman of the transit agency.

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