A $1.4-billion, 20-mile Phoenix-area light-rail project includes a new type of mitigation measure: citizen committees that oversee contractor bonuses. Contractors have experienced varying degrees of success, receiving from 100% to 70% of $2.5 million in available bonuses.

Five 15-citizen advisory boards oversee each contract section of the 28-station, at-grade Metro rail line, which runs through Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa, Ariz. As of May 1, the project was 62% complete, with 128,000 ft of guideway and 16 stations. HDR Inc., Omaha, with Phoenix-based subsidiary S.R. Beard & Associates LLC and Parsons Brinkerhoff, New York City, are the program managers. Metro is within budget and scheduled to finish by December 2008.

The concept came from Salt Lake City's Trax light-rail project. Bonuses go to contractors that go "above and beyond" in addressing community concerns, says Metro spokesman Marty McNeil. Each board meets monthly to review contractor-related complaints, ranging from dust and noise to vehicle access and cleanup. The board grades contractor response time, public outreach and completion. Grades are averaged to determine a quarterly percentile bonus award. Bonuses are earmarked as a separate fund, unrelated to contractor bids, contract penalties or punch lists.

Sundt Construction Inc., Tempe, and Stacy & Witbeck Inc., Alameda, Calif., created a 24-hour live complaint hotline. The joint venture has $123.7 million in contracts for sections four and five. "The program has really made the contractor accountable," says Dave Richins, vice chairman of line five's advisory board.

On the other hand, section-three board members are still wrestling with Archer Western Contractor's $94.7-million contract, which has had some business owners claiming losses due to disruptions. There is $381,003 of remaining bonus money on that job. Archer Western Contractors, a unit of The Walsh Group, Portland, Ore., has received $484,912.96 so far. Board members are disagreeing on whether to allocate the remaining bonus money to the business owners.