Map courtesy Metro
The $1.6-billion project extends the Purple Line to the west by about 4 miles.
Photo courtesy Metro
During pre-construction for the Purple Line, an exploratory shaft dug by Metro found numerous prehistoric animal bones.

Two losing bidders on the Westside Purple Line Extension Project in Los Angeles have filed bid protests over what they call a "flawed evaluation" by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) during scoring of the design-build, best-value proposals.

Three joint-venture teams submitted proposals for the nearly four-mile extension of Metro's existing Purple Line. The project calls for the design-build of twin tunnels underneath Wilshire Boulevard, heading west from the existing Wilshire-Western Station. The contract also includes three new cut-and-cover stations.

Under the "best value" evaluation process, Metro's proposal evaluators assigned 40% of the total score to price, 35% to technical approach and 25% to project management.

The winning bid of $1.64 billion—submitted by STS, a joint venture of Skanska, Traylor and Shea—was $192 million higher than the lowest price bid of $1.44 billion, submitted by DAS, a joint venture of Dragados USA, Astaldi Construction and Southland Contracting. Westside Tunnel Partners (WTP), a joint venture of Impregilo, Samsung E&C America and Salina USA, was in the middle, at $1.57 billion. Both DAS and WTP submitted protests.

Metro says the STS contract rose to the top because it scored the highest in technical proficiency and project management resources, which outweighed the higher price. STS also pledged to complete the 107-month project approximately 10 months early.

"We stand behind our recommendation, and our board has taken action based on our recommendation, pending the resolution of the protests," says Dave Sotero, Metro communications manager.

The STS contract was approved by a vote of 9-3 (with one abstention) after an often contentious hearing on July 24 of the Metro board, chaired by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) and comprising area City Council members.

During the hearing, Jim McDonald, WTP project director, expressed concern the evaluation process "had an unusual range of scoring of the proposals [than] we see on any other design-build job," which "created a situation where price doesn’t matter at all."

Christopher Ward, executive vice president of major projects with Dragados, told the board that "to walk away from $192 million [in savings] seems, to me, a difficult political proposition."

Mike Aparicio, executive vice president of Skanska USA Civil, which led the winning STS team, says, "The contracting community has to get used to a true best-value competition—that price is only one component of the value." Factors such as the quality, technical expertise and knowledge of the team, along with certainty of meeting project schedules, are often of primary consideration for owner, he says.

"Grumbling on just the price as a component of a best-value competition is maybe off-base," he adds.