Gold Line Foothill Extension awards first construction contract

An artists' rendering of the bridge that will carry the Foothill Extension of the Gold Line over the eastbound lanes of the 210 freeway.

The agency charged with building the Gold Line extension from Pasadena to Azusa awarded its first construction contract on Friday, moving the light rail project one step closer to being built.

It’s important because the Foothill Extension will be the first rail project funded by the Measure R to begin actual construction. The contract that was awarded on Friday is to erect a bridge in Arcadia that will carry the Gold Line tracks from the middle of the 210 freeway to the south side of the freeway, where the tracks will continue toward that city’s downtown.

Work on the bridge could start by the end of this year. That’s contingent on a funding transfer agreement being signed between Metro and and the Foothill Extension Construction Authority. The Board of Directors of Metro approved the transfer earlier this year, but some key details are being worked out.

Foothill Extension officials hope to begin building the 11 miles of rail line between Sierra Madre Villa and Azusa in 2011. They are targeting a 2014 opening.

The timing of the contract was pretty good: a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Foothill Extension is being held this Saturday morning at Newcastle Park in Arcadia (101 Colorado Blvd.). It’s a big deal in the Foothill communities of the San Gabriel Valley, with four members of Congress scheduled to attend — Reps. Judy Chu, David Dreier, Grace Napolitano and Adam Schiff.

And it’s probably a good thing for those four members to be kept happy: They’ve been ardent supporters of the Foothill Extension for years and Congress may be voting next year on elements of the 30/1o Initiative that would accelerate construction of other Measure R transit projects.

As for the bridge contract, it came in at $18.5 million, which is significantly less than Foothill Extension Construction Authority officials thought they were going to spend. If that trend continues, it’s obviously a good thing not just for the Foothill Extension but all upcoming transit projects in the area.

We’ll take a deeper look at the Foothill Extension on The Source later this week. After the jump is an email from Foothill Extension Authority CEO Habib Balian, announcing the awarding of the bridge contract.

From Habib Balian, CEO of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority:

This morning, the Authority held a special board meeting and awarded the first contract for Phase 2A (Pasadena to Azusa). The $18.5 million contract to design and build the Iconic Freeway Structure (IFS) was won by the Skanska/AECOM Team (Skanska USA Civil West California District Inc. will lead the team, with AECOM Technical Services, Inc. the design lead).

As expressed in previous updates, we have been extremely pleased with the caliber of teams vying for the Phase 2A work, and the two IFS finalists were no exception. Skanska and AECOM are both internationally respected leaders in their fields and we look forward to working with them. However, their qualifications were not the deciding factor in their win.  The final two teams scored nearly equal on qualifications and design criteria, representing 50% of the decision. The other 50% was based on budget, and Skanska/AECOM bid the project millions of dollars below their competition.

In the end, both teams bid significantly below the original amount budgeted by the Authority for the project, and nearly one-quarter less than our most recent estimates. This reduction is due in large part to the amount of certainty and data we were able to provide the teams before their final bids were due.

Over the last eight months, the Authority has gathered information to help improve the cost-effectiveness of the program. From bringing in experts in related fields for peer reviews, to calling upon our internal and consulting staff experience and lessons-learned from similar efforts, to integrating detailed data provided by the recently completed and approved geotechnical study – each effort brought additional certainty to the scope of work.

Board members commended staff on the process that was used, expressing that the approach increased competition and ingenuity, and ultimately resulted in a bid that met all of the Authority’s requirements and saved tax-payer dollars.

Although the board approved contract award to the winning team, approval was contingent on the Authority signing the Funding Transfer and Master Cooperative Agreements with Metro. We are getting closer to that critical moment, but there are still hurdles to overcome. I am hopeful that the remaining issues can be resolved in the coming days allowing the project to stay on schedule. I will keep you posted on our progress with these critical agreements.

Until then, we look forward to one week from tomorrow coming together at Newcastle Park to celebrate the next phase of this project. We have had a tremendous response to this event, and now have four members of Congress (Judy Chu, David Dreier, Grace Napolitano, and Adam Schiff), State Legislators (Senator Carol Liu, and Assembly members Mike Eng, Dr. Ed Hernandez and Anthony Portantino), Supervisor Antonovich, representatives from all of the cities in the corridor (from Los Angeles to Ontario), as well as leadership from the Authority and Metro confirmed to attend the groundbreaking for the first new rail project to be funded by Measure R.

The Journey Continues,

Habib F. Balian