After years of planning, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) finally settled its differences with its neighbors to limit capacity at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and on Nov. 19 awarded a $242 million runway improvement contract to the lowest of two bidders, a Sylmar, Calif.-based Tutor-Saliba Corporation led joint venture with O & G Industries.

When the project was advertised in March, LAWA estimated construction costs at $217 million, but revised the estimate to $253 million in mid-August, just weeks before the only two bids were received. The higher engineers estimate was primarily due to increased material costs for concrete and aggregate and higher fuel costs, according to the LAWA Board report. In addition to Tutor-Salibas offer, Omaha, Neb.-based Kiewit-Pacific submitted a bid for $294 million, about $52 million more.

The Board considered re-advertising in hopes of receiving a lower bid, but decided that in the current environment, bids could come in higher and Federal Aviation Administration funding could be lost due to delay. There are not a lot of large contractors out there right now. It is difficult, says Tom Winfrey, LAWA spokesperson.

In 2001, Tutor-Saliba completed a $1.1 billion International Terminal at San Francisco International Airport. The company also participated in the $750 million Richmond/San Rafael Bridge Retrofit. In January, the California State Court of Appeal overturned a $60 million fine against the contractor and sent a dispute between Tutor-Saliba and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority alleging violation of the California False Claims Act and Unfair Competition Law back to a lower court. LAWA considered the companys history and found the joint venture to meet Contractor Responsibility Program criteria.

According to LAWA, construction could begin as soon as mid-January pending approval of the settlement and the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion dismissing their state and federal lawsuits. The project, which was designed by the Los Angeles office of HNTB Corp., will relocate a southern runway 55 ft south of its present location to provide separation and allow for construction of a new center taxiway. While no accidents between aircraft landing or departing LAX have occurred the southside project offered the best physical solution to reduce the risk of runway incursions, according to an LAX statement. It is also the only runway at LAX that meets FAA standards for the new Airbus 3890 aircraft, which could begin arriving in spring 2007.

The total project, which includes structural improvements to the Sepulveda Tunnel, will land at about $328 million and be completed in just over two years.