Designers and contractors barred from a first round and a pending rebid of the construction work on a $1.9-billion extension of the Minneapolis light-rail system are criticizing the region's Metropolitan Council for shutting them out after the first-round bid prices proved too high.
The new bids are due on Jan. 9. The council, which is overseeing the build-out of the 14.5-mile light-rail line from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, says it was trying to level the playing field when it recently barred 36 subcontractors, designers and consultants from participation on construction teams on the project. A bid would be deemed non-responsive if one of the firms were included on a project team.
Contracting teams for two major parts of the system were selected without such a ban. Nevertheless, the council says it barred the companies that had all taken part in preliminary design and engineering work on the light-rail line extension because work on the prior phases would provide an unfair advantage over competitors for the construction contract.
However, the leaders of the Minnesota chapters of the Associated General Contractors and the American Council of Engineering Companies are pushing back hard as new bids are prepared.
The ban is unfair to the subcontractors involved, many of whom "were performing a supporting role and did not develop or draft specifications, requirements, statements of work, invitations for bids or requests for proposals," say Tim Worke, chief executive of the Associated General Contractors of Minnesota, and David Oxley, executive director of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Minnesota.
Banning the subcontractors also could push costs by dramatically reducing the pool of local subs with which general contractors can work, according to Worke in a separate interview.
"The continued assertion on the part of the Metropolitan Council that contractors cannot utilize any sub-consultants on this precluded list, even those that do not represent a conflict of interest, has greatly reduced the available resources for the Project and, thus, the Project's competitiveness," according to the letter from the heads of the two big trade groups.
The sparring comes as the Metropolitan Council puts out to bid for a second time the construction phase of the light-rail extension project. Bids are due on Jan. 9 for jobs ranging from bridge construction to tunnels, with work expected to kick off in the spring.
The council rejected the first round of bids from four different contracting groups, saying they were too high. The low bidder, at $796 million, was from Ames Kraemer, a joint venture between Minnesota-based Ames Construction and Wisconsin-based Edward Kraemer and Sons, with Southwest Transit Constructors weighing in at just under $1.1 billion.
Wisconsin-based Lunda Construction Co. and Minnesota-based C.S. McCrossan ($807.1 million) and Southwest Rail Constructors ($1.068 billion) also submitted bids. The Metropolitan Council notified three of the four groups that their bids were considered “non-responsive" because they included subcontractors that had done preliminary design and engineering work on the project.