The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (LACMTA) has approved a $1.6 billion contract with the Skanska, Traylor and Shea (STS) Joint Venture to construct the 3.9-mi first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway. The first phase, with a total budget of $2.7 billion, is currently forecast to open in 2023. Overall, the three-phase, nine-mi-long project is looking at a $6.3 billion budget and a 2035 completion date.

The contract, which the LACMTA Board voted 9 to 3 in favor of on July 24, is a key step forward for one of the cornerstone projects to be funded in part by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. A $1.25-billion federal New Starts grant is also helping to pay for the project.

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The design-build Purple Line Extension project will push the subway from its current terminus at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue to Wilshire and La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Three new stations will be constructed at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega.

The procurement process began in June 2013. Three firms bid on the contract. LACMTA says proposals were evaluated based on project management, technical approach and price. A recent blog on the MTA website says there was considerable discussion by the Metro Board on the issue of how the bids were evaluated and the weight that should — or should not — be given to price.

The two firms that did not win the contract are Westside Transit Partners - WTP (Impregilo S.p.A„ Samsung E&C America, Inc., and Salini USA, Inc.), with a final bid of $1,571,775,900; and Dragados / Astaldi / Southland (DAS) a Joint Venture, with a final bid of $1,443,878,064.

Both groups have filed protests with Metro. The Board is allowed to award the contract pending the timely resolution of the protests.

The Metro blog says that while the Skanska, Traylor and Shea bid was the most expensive bid by about $193 million, Metro staff believes “this team offers best opportunity to deliver the project on time and on budget." The winning companies involved have also worked on the second phase of the Expo Line, the Gold Line Foothill Extension and the city of Los Angeles’ North East Interceptor Sewer tunnel.

Metro Board Member Don Knabe said at the last Board meeting that extra $193 million was a lot of money “to leave on the table” without getting more information on the bids and the protests..

Utility relocations for the Purple Line Extension’s have been underway since last year, with heavy construction scheduled for later this year.

The STS Joint Venture will feature Parsons Corporation as lead designer, and Comstock as systems subcontractor.