The city of Portland, Ore. started contract negotiations with the joint venture team of Kiewit Construction Company (Omaha) and German-based Bilfinger Berger for the second phase of a $1.4-billion program to control combined storm and sewer overflows. Dubbed the “Big Pipe” project, it is the costliest construction project in the city’s history.

Now at its mid-point, the city has opted to change contractors for the project duration and the incumbent has formally appealed that decision. The city council is scheduled to hear the appeal either May 15 or May 26, according to a spokesman for the city.
The second half of the job consists of a 6-mile, 22-ft-diameter tunnel and pipe on the east bank of the Willamette River. Construction for the approximately $500-million contract will be finished in 2011, according to Linc Mann, a city spokesperson.

For the East Side bid, Impregilo/Healy teamed up with Obayashi (Tokyo) but despite the joint venture’s partial incumbency on the West Side, city officials opted to switch contractors, a decision the Impregilo/Healy/Obayashi joint venture has appealed.
According to Mann, the Bureau of Purchases director and a Purchases Board of Appeals have both already dismissed the appeal as groundless, however, the City Council has agreed to review that decision in late May.

Mann said that dissatisfaction with Impregilo/Healy was not a factor in the decision to switch contractors as the current phase of the project is on time and within budget. “Impregilo-Healy was able to surmount some serious construction obstacles and still keep the project on track,” says Mann. The city simply wanted the bidding for the next phase to be on a “level playing field” without considering incumbency, he adds.

“Both joint ventures submitted outstanding proposals and it was a difficult choice,” says Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services Director Dean Marriott when announcing the contractor switch. “What gave Kiewit/Bilfinger Berger the edge was their strong commitment to safety on the East Side Big Pipe project.”

The appeal by Impregilo/Healy/Obayashi cites multiple justifications for overturning the selection including inappropriate use of outside safety data by committee members. The appeal calls for a new selection committee to review the proposals.