Denver Transit Agency Threatens Default Notice to Rail Line Contractor
Denver’s Regional Transportation District may issue a formal notice of default to its design-build contractor, Regional Rail Partners, for work on the agency’s new N Line.
The transit agency says the warning comes because of continued delays in meeting project milestones and the contractor’s inability to fulfill contractual obligations.
RRP is a joint venture of Balfour Beatty Rail Infrastructure and Graham Contracting.
The $509.7-million commuter rail line under way will run from downtown Denver to the city’s northern suburbs. The first 13-mile section—the only one currently funded—includes six new stations with parking spaces for 2,480 vehicles.
The agency said in a statement released Feb. 12 that “various civil, systems and guideway construction items” on the electrified commuter rail line have not been completed, and RRP has not reached substantial project completion, nor is it ready to turn the corridor over to the owner.
Those incomplete items include “major deliverables” such as lack of safety certifications and as-built drawings, insufficient ADA access and compliance at stations, an unfinished parking structure at the 104th Street station and incomplete equipment houses for communications systems, according to Pauletta Tonilas, RTD’s assistant general manager of communications.
“These are not just minor punchlist items,” she told ENR. “And there’s enough of them that we can’t continue to leave these things undone.”
RRP declined requests for an interview but said in a statement emailed to ENR: “The North Metro Rail Line project has experienced delays due to circumstances outside of the control of Regional Rail Partners. We remain committed to cooperating with our customer, the Regional Transportation District, and to the completion of the North Metro Rail Line project to bring enhanced services to the greater Denver community.”
Tonilas also says that RRP has missed several target dates for project turnover, the latest being Feb. 3.
Even though various components of the project are somewhere between 85% to 95% complete, she says ongoing delays in the final pieces are preventing RTD from doing its operator training and integrated testing on the line.
RTD says it expects Balfour Beatty and Graham to complete the work as contracted. In a recent discussion between RTD and contracting officials, RRP said it is committed to dedicating the resources necessary to complete the project as soon as possible. If they do not, RTD is prepared to file the notice of default.
The N Line broke ground nearly six years ago, in March 2014, and was scheduled to open in 2018. The agency and RRP have been squabbling over delays for nearly two years, with each of them suing the other party in 2018. The revised opening date of late 2019 has been pushed back even further.
“We don’t have a revised completion date yet,” Tonilas says. “We had hoped to have the line open for our May service change. Now it may have to wait until our August service change date. We can use our on-call contractor to get the rest of the work done, but we’d rather not do that.”
“The fact that this project is still not complete is completely unacceptable and frustrating to not only us at RTD, but to our stakeholders and the public we serve,” says Angie Rivera-Malpiede, chair of RTD’s board of directors. “We’re concerned but plan to work toward a swift solution.”
“We’ll be meeting with the contractor team again next week to hear how they plan to deliver their remaining work and we plan to hold them accountable,” said Heather McKillop, RTD’s acting interim general manager and CEO in a statement. “While we’ve had some challenges on this project, it’s time to get it done and opened to the public.”
The agency has experienced snags and delays in opening some of its other transit lines, with the G Line to the city’s northwest suburbs opening more than two years late, and nagging problems with the ATS system on the agency’s commuter rail line from downtown to the airport.