A roughly year-long legal battle over the Florida Dept. of Transportation’s selection of a contractor for an $800-million Miami bridge project is over, with a Fluor-led team officially rejected in favor of an Archer Western-led joint venture.

The Fluor-Astaldi-MCM (FAM) joint venture, which placed second during a best-value procurement process in 2017, argued that FDOT’s selection process wrongly minimized the importance of competitors’ aesthetic scores for the “signature bridge” project. The FAM team had earned higher aesthetic scores than the joint venture of Archer Western and de Moya Group, known as AWD.

FDOT’s emphasis on aesthetics during the procurement was the result of a 2013 lawsuit by former Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who had sued the agency on behalf of Miami residents who demanded a “signature” bridge. Sarnoff filed a new complaint against FDOT in 2017 in response to the agency’s initial selection of Archer Western.

The state agency’s request for a design-build-finance proposal described a four-step process that included: short-listing, pass-fail review by the aesthetics committee, scoring the technical and aesthetic submissions, and the price and financial proposal submission.

In an April 10, 2018, ruling on the bid protest, state administrative law judge Hetal Desai concluded the Miami bridge project’s procurement was “conducted in full compliance with all applicable laws, and the award to AWD did not violate the agency's governing statutes, rules or policies, or the solicitation specifications.”

As ENR previously reported, Sarnoff had contended that the third step of FDOT’s review should have required separate votes on the competing proposals’ aesthetics and technical merits. However, the RFP did not actually specify the voting process for that third step.

On this point, Desai concluded “the language of the RFP identifying the preliminary nature of the bidder's drawings and designs and the Written Confirmation Letter was not erroneous.”

The FAM team formerly dropped its legal protest on April 18. On April 30, FDOT Secretary Mike Dew signed an order allowing the agency to execute a contract with the Archer Western-de Moya joint venture team.

A construction schedule has not been determined yet, said FDOT spokesperson Tish Burgher.

Officials with Fluor and Archer Western declined to comment on the matter.