The public body organizing the planned $16.1-billion Hudson River rail replacement tunnel project between New Jersey and New York City is revising its contracting strategy to promote a competitive bidding pool.

Gateway Development Commission said April 18 it is breaking up tunneling and related heavy civil works for the two-tube, 2.4-mile tunnel into four contract packages, each for a different section. The group previously planned to let all design and construction under one package.

Gateway is making the change based on feedback from contractors during an industry event in February and as part of refinements made with the Federal Transit Administration for a grant process. Kris Kolluri, CEO of Gateway, said in a statement that the new approach moves more complex early work forward in addition to breaking up tunneling work.

“The industry that will build the Hudson Tunnel project advised us that the best way to ensure a competitive bidding pool was to divide up the largest, most complicated portion of the project into multiple pieces of work,” Kolluri said. “We listened.”

The first piece to go out to bid is an early work design-build project focused on stabilizing the river bottom on the New York side of the Hudson to improve conditions for boring. Gateway says it plans to issue a request for qualifications for that work “in the coming period,” but declines to be more specific.

The next package, delivered via design-bid-build, would cover the western portion of the tunnel through the New Jersey Palisades to a construction shaft in Hoboken. Work on that section is expected to begin next year.

Another package, delivered under design-build, would include the tunnel section, including a  construction shaft, between West 29th and West 30th Streets in Manhattan, through the West Side bulkhead and under the Hudson River Park. That work also is scheduled to start next year. The final package, delivered via design-bid-build, would include tunneling under the river to connect the end sections. That work is scheduled to start in 2025.

The overall Gateway plan currently calls for nine contract packages including tunnel and non-tunnel work, including a concrete casing at the Hudson Yards development in midtown Manhattan, retaining walls and bridges in New Jersey, fit-out of the new tunnel and rehabilitation of the existing North River Tunnel. The commission and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey sought bids in February for the first commission-managed construction project, a bridge carrying Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen, N.J., over the future tunnel alignment. Construction is expected to start this year and last about two years. 

Gateway and Amtrak also issued an RFQ early this year for a project delivery partner that would provide design management, construction management, field representation and other services, as an integrated member of the project team. 

They had previously said Amtrak would select a shortlist of firms by May 1. Stephen Sigmund, chief of public outreach for Gateway, said via email that developers “received a very robust response” and the process of selecting a project delivery partner continues.